Touchdown today: Israel’s Genesis spacecraft approaching lunar surface

Excitement is building in Israel as its first-ever spacecraft, Genesis, is set to land on the moon today at 10:00 p.m. – 11 p.m. Israel time (3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. EDT). 

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Israelis are looking skyward tonight as the Genesis spacecraft — the name was chosen in an online vote — is scheduled to touch down on Thursday between 10:00-11:00 p.m. Israel time (3:00-4:00 p.m. EDT).

Once Genesis touches the lunar surface, Israel will have entered the history books as only the fourth country to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon, sharing the honor with far larger countries with much deeper pockets – the U.S., China and Russia.

Israel has already made history with its spacecraft. Last week it became only the seventh country to place a spacecraft in lunar orbit.

Shortly before touchdown, Genesis will conduct a two-step deceleration process as it dives toward the lunar surface, an operation of about 15 minutes. After landing, it will take a selfie.

It’s main scientific contribution will be measuring the moon’s magnetic field.

Israelis will be justifiably proud of their achievement. As a sign of the general enthusiasm, an official Ben Gurion International Airport app listed the moon as one of its  destinations.

An official Ben Gurion International Airport app listed the moon as a destination on Thursday. (Facebook)

Genesis got its start in 2010 when three young Israeli engineers – Yonatan Winetraub, Yariv Bash and Kfir Damari — registered for the Google Lunar X Prize competition. The competition offered $20 million for the first non-governmental entity to land a spacecraft on the moon. The contest’s aim was to encourage commercial spaceflight and exploration.

However, when the Google Lunar X Prize announced in 2018 that the contest deadline had passed, Israel’s team (among many teams competing around the world) was the only one that decided to go for the moon anyway. In a show of appreciation, Google announced on March 29 that it would award $1 million to SpaceIL, the nonprofit company established to run the Israeli effort.

For a history of Israel’s space history, see the timeline of milestones on Israel’s journey to the moon.

A live feed of the Genesis landing can be seen below: