Israeli spacecraft Beresheet made its final maneuver ahead of a planned descent to the moon on Thursday, which, if successful, will propel Israel into an elite group of countries that have mastered the lunar landing.
The unmanned robotic lander dubbed Beresheet – Hebrew for the biblical phrase “in the beginning” – has traveled through space for seven weeks in a series of expanding orbits around Earth before crossing into the moon’s gravity last week.
The final maneuver brought the spacecraft into a tight elliptical orbit around the moon, just 15-17 kilometeres from the surface at its closest. The landing is set to begin late on Thursday, with touchdown expected around 3:30 pm ET, the Israeli space team said.
So far, only three other nations have carried out controlled “soft” landings of spacecraft on the lunar surface – the United States, the former Soviet Union and China.