Curiosity and InSight aren’t the only spacefaring crafts snapping selfies — Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft shared an image of itself floating far above the Earth this week. The first privately funded mission to the moon was launched by the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL at the end of February. It marks Israel’s first venture to the moon as well.
Beresheet, a small craft about the size of a washing machine, still has a long way to go on its journey to the moon. It needs to cover a total distance of approximately 384,000 kilometers, or nearly 240,000 miles. For reference, that’s 10 times further than the typical communication satellites orbiting the Earth.
The spacecraft took this image when it was 37,600 kilometers (23,400 miles) from Earth, about 10 percent of the way there, though the craft is still orbiting Earth at this time and it is expected to take about two months to complete its travels from liftoff to destination. It is scheduled to land at the Sea of Serenity on April 11.
The name Beresheet is Hebrew, and it means “Genesis” or “in the beginning.” That’s a fitting title for a craft that Israel hopes will be just the start of its space program as the nation seeks to become just the fourth country to land on the moon, joining the United States, Russia, and China.
The upbeat attitude of the SpaceIL team despite the relatively small size of their county is demonstrated in the plaque that Beresheet is adorned with in its selfie: it reads, “Small country, big dreams.” The plaque also features the Israeli flag and a message in Hebrew: “Am Yisrael Chai,” which means “the nation of Israel lives.”
There were some troubles for the plucky craft this week when it experienced a computer glitch which could have affected its orbit. But it was able to perform an important maneuver on February 28 and now seems to be back on track, with another maneuver scheduled for this week. The plan is for the craft to continue orbiting Earth at greater and greater distances, until it is eventually snagged by lunar gravity and is pulled into orbit around the moon instead.