Last week, Beresheet successfully exited the earth's orbit and let the moon's gravitational force draw it into it's own orbit. But with the original prize money off the table, mission managers don't want to risk Beresheet with any additional maneuvers once it lands.
The spacecraft will take photos of the landing site to prove a successful landing, adding to its collection of stunning images and videos from its journey. The landing attempt began late Thursday, with touchdown expected around 10:25 p.m.in Israel (3:25 p.m. ET). It was a response to Google's Lunar XPRIZE, which promised $20 million to a company that could soft-land on the Moon and complete a small series of tasks.
The $100 million mission, the first spacecraft from a smaller, non-superpower country set to land on the lunar surface, as well as the first private lunar landing mission, will communicate with six ground stations on Earth, and will be supported by the Deep Space Network, as all missions beyond Earth have communications going through a facility at JPL.
SpaceIL and IAI have indicated that should a problem arise, the spacecraft will re-enter its elliptical orbit around the moon and abort the landing process.
Beresheet was created to make some measurements of the local gravity field around its landing site during its two or three Earth days of work on the moon.
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China's Chang'e-4 made the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon on January 3, after a probe sent by Beijing made a lunar landing elsewhere in 2013.
In addition to its science mission, Beresheet carried a time capsule to the Moon.
The main goals, SpaceIL and IAI representatives have said, involved advancing Israel's space program, increasing the nation's technological knowhow and getting young people more interested in science, technology, engineering and math.
The Beresheet lander was built by IAI (Israel Aerospace Industries) and is operated from a mission control facility in Yehud, Israel, southeast of Tel Aviv. It managed to make it to lunar orbit, after all, and to send back a photograph from near the moon's surface, almost touching down softly - and all for a total mission price tag of just $100 million, including launch.
Nearly everything about the unmanned spacecraft goes against convention and shows Israeli ingenuity at its finest. "I didn't realize it was impossible and the three engineers who started this project didn't realize it was impossible, and the way we in Israel think, nothing is impossible".