I imagine there’s a few people at NASA saying “Are you sure letting the Israelis land a probe on the moon is a good idea? Where are they intending to land? What equipment to they have on board?”
‘According to a release disseminated by the Weizmann Institute, the chosen site was selected by Prof. Oded Aharonson of the Weizmann Institute and Prof. Jim Head of Brown University. It is located in the northeastern part of Mare Serenitatis, a few hundreds of miles east of the Apollo 15 landing site and a similar distance northwest from the Apollo 17 site.’
“THE JEWISH ZIONIST BASTARDS!”
“Don’t worry NAZA, we won’t tell… if…” ;D
Israeli spaceflight company SpaceIL has chosen Mare Serenitatis as the spot for their historic landing of the first privately launched Moon lander.
By John Wenz
The route Beresheet is following to reach lunar orbit.
Beresheet, the first privately launched Moon lander, has a site selected — and it’s in a fairly familiar locale.
Scientists at Israeli spaceflight company SpaceIL, working with Jim Head of Brown University — who also worked on the Apollo missions — chose Mare Serenitatis as the landing spot for their historic Moon landing. It’s free of large rocks and craters, obstacles that can prove hazardous or even fatal to landers, something that also appealed to a very different set of Moon missions decades ago.
After its latest engine firing, Beresheet is on a course for the Moon, where it will touch down in April. The craft is slated to land about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from both the Apollo 15 and 17 sites, roughly equidistant between them. However, Oded Aharonson, a mission scientist, says that it’s entirely coincidental. “The understanding of the surface we gained from Apollo 15 and 17 influenced our thinking in evaluating sites, but the location was not chosen to have them in proximity,” he says.
So what went into the site selection? The Beresheet craft — which means “Genesis” in Hebrew — is equipped with a magnetic field sensor, and Serenitatis is an area rife with magnetic field activity. The rocks there are between 2.9 billion and 3.4 billion years old, a time that might shed light on the slowing and eventual stopping of the Moon’s molten core, which acted as a dynamo converting physical motion into magnetic field.
“This time period is particularly interesting for our investigation, because it represents a time period during which Apollo samples show a significant decline in magnetization,” Aharonson says. “Thus, measuring and correlating the field with specific units would enable constraining the timing of the demise of the lunar dynamo responsible for magnetizing the surface rocks.”
Such information would help scientists understand the history of the Moon, and give us additional insights into the evolution of planets and other rocky bodies as they age — including Earth.
Beresheet was launched February 22 and put in orbit around Earth. The craft, after a burn that set it on an elliptical orbit around Earth and within reach of the Moon, will officially enter lunar orbit April 4. It will land a week later, touching down April 11. Along with its science payload, the craft also carries a digital time capsule from Earth for future generations to find, featuring Israeli cultural items, a copy of the Bible, a copy of English-language Wikipedia up to launch date, and more.
March 20, 2019, Weizmann Institute of Science
The topography of the 140 km (87 mi) diameter area containing the potential lunar landing sites in Mare Serenitatis (arrow). Darker colors indicate lower elevation. Credit: Weizmann Institute of Science
The main scientific instrument on board the Israeli Beresheet spacecraft, the SpaceIL Magnetometer (SILMAG), has now been successfully turned on in space and data returned to Earth. After its successful launch, Beresheet is circling Earth on its journey to the Moon. Prof. Oded Aharonson of the Weizmann Institute of Science is heading the team that is currently analyzing the SILMAG information to evaluate the health and accuracy of the instrument in space, as well as recording the magnetic signature of the spacecraft itself, which will then be subtracted from the measurements made on the Moon.
Measuring the magnetism of lunar rocks will enable researchers to address outstanding questions about the Moon: how it acquired its magnetic field, and when in its history this occurred.
Prof. Aharonson and his team of scientists, working with the SpaceIL engineers, have identified a landing site for the Beresheet lander. The selection criteria focused on ensuring a safe landing, searching for sites with relatively few craters, exposed rocks, or steep slopes within the landing area that could jeopardize the touchdown. In addition, the scientists searched for a location on the Moon where the crust is magnetic, so as to allow the magnetometer on board the spacecraft to carry out its investigation.
The landing site was selected together with Prof. Jim Head of Brown University, a member of the SpaceIL team who worked with the NASA Apollo program on landing site selection, among other things. “On the basis of our experience with Apollo, the Serenitatis sites favor both landing safety and scientific reward,” he said.
The Beresheet landing site. Credit: Weizmann Institute of Science
The chosen site is located in the northeastern part of Mare Serenitatis, a few hundreds of miles east of the Apollo 15 landing site and a similar distance northwest of the Apollo 17 site. Three optional landing sites (primary and two backups) were identified. The terrain in these locations is composed of material characteristic of ancient mare surfaces – large, dark basalt plains resulting from long-ago volcanic eruptions – on which successful landings have been made (most recently Chang’E 3 and 4). “Lunar magnetism has been an enigma for decades. It is a privilege to be part of this mission that’s taking one more step towards solving it,” said Prof. Aharonson.
The Beresheet spacecraft is currently orbiting Earth and performing maneuvers in preparation for lunar orbit insertion in early April, followed by the planned landing at the chosen site.