Mumbai, March 6: An Israeli spacecraft on its maiden mission to the moon has sent its first selfie back to Earth. The image shows a part of the Beresheet spacecraft with Earth in the background. NGO SpaceIL and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries launched the unmanned Beresheet - Hebrew for Genesis -- from Cape Canaveral in Florida on February 22.
The 585-kilogram craft took off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the private US-based SpaceX company. The trip is scheduled to last seven weeks, with the touch down due on April 11. So far, only Russia, the United States and China have made the 384,000-kilometre journey and landed on the moon.
The Israeli mission comes amid renewed global interest in the moon. China's Chang'e-4 made the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon in January, after a probe sent by Beijing made a lunar landing elsewhere in 2013. For Israel, the landing itself is the main mission, but the spacecraft also carries a scientific instrument to measure the lunar magnetic field, which will help to understand of the moon's formation.
It also carries a "time capsule" loaded with digital files containing a Bible, children's drawings, Israeli songs, memories of a Holocaust survivor and the blue-and-white Israeli flag. After China and Israel, India hopes to become the fifth lunar country with its Chandrayaan-2 mission. It aims to put a craft with a rover onto the moon's surface to collect data.
Japan also plans to send a small lunar lander, called SLIM, to study a volcanic area around 2020-2021. As for the Americans, who have not been back to the moon since 1972, a return is now the official policy of NASA, according to guidelines issued by President Donald Trump in 2017.