Genesis spacecraft performs decisive maneuver for lunar capture

SpaceIL’s Genesis will perform a critical slowing maneuver to bring it into the moon’s orbit. 

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Israel’s first ever spacecraft, Beresheet (or, “Genesis”) will perform a decisive maneuver today at 5:15 p.m. Israel time as it makes its way toward the lunar surface.

The spacecraft’s motors will be operated for a lengthy six minutes in order to slow its speed to enable it to be captured by the moon. This will be its most decisive maneuver since it launched into space aboard a Falcom SpaceX rocket on Feb. 22.

If Genesis flies by too fast, the spacecraft may jump out of both the earth’s and the moon’s orbit and head into the sun’s orbit. That would mean the end of the mission.

During the maneuver, Genesis’s speed will be slowed from about 8,500 kilometers per hour (5,200 mph) to 7,500 kilometers per hour (4,600 mph).

Genesis has made a number of maneuvers since entering space, beginning on Feb. 24 when it was 64,000 kilometers from earth and conducted a 30-second burn of its engine.

The mission has not been without its hiccups. On Feb 25., SpaceIL reported technical difficulties and a planned maneuver was automatically cancelled. But the mission returned to schedule after the problem was sorted out.

Once Genesis completes today’s maneuver, it will enter an elliptical orbit with the moon. A week before its scheduled landing date on April 11, it will conduct a series of maneuvers to bring it from an elliptical orbit around the moon to a circular one, which will gradually reduce in time to one orbit every two hours.

Its final maneuver will be landing in the Sea of Tranquility, which was also the landing site for America’s first manned moon landing on July 20, 1969.