Watch the First Private Moon Lander Ride to Orbit on a SpaceX Rocket
The Beresheet lander will attempt the first private Moon landing on April 11.
Concept art of Beresheet lunar lander. Image: Oshratsi
The Beresheet lander will remain in Earth orbit for several weeks as it works up the velocity to transfer to lunar orbit. It is scheduled to guide itself to the Moon’s surface on April 11, with a target site in the Mare Serenitatis region.
If Beresheet pulls off its touchdown, it will not only be the first private Moon landing, it will be the first Moon landing for Israel. Only three other nations have achieved this feat—the USA, the Soviet Union, and China.
The Beresheet lander may also make history by being the first lander to “hop” to a second location on the lunar surface. The spacecraft is equipped with rockets that could potentially guide it 500 meters from its original landing site. But the SpaceIL team said that they might not attempt the hop if it seems unsafe, according to Wired.
The Beresheet lander is a joint project between Israel Aerospace Industries, an aerospace and defense company in Israel, and a nonprofit called SpaceIL, a competitor for the Google Lunar XPRIZE to land a private spacecraft on the Moon. This prize was originally valued $30 million but that money will go unclaimed because none of the competitors met the 2018 launch deadline.
But even with no prize, Beresheet will have premium bragging rights if it becomes the first private lunar lander in April.
Given that India’s space program (ISRO) is also gearing up to launch a lunar lander within the next two months, it is shaping up to be a busy year for Moon milestones.
Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter.