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The privately-built Israeli lunar lander Beresheet has sent back its first pictures, taken on its way to the moon.
The picture, taken 37,600 km from Earth, shows the Israeli flag and the inscription with “Am Yisrael Hai” (the People of Israel Live) in Hebrew and the inscription “Small Country, Big Dreams” in English. The spacecraft was snapped as it passed over Australia, and the photograph was taken during a very slow rotation by Beresheet. The Israeli spacecraft, built in an IAI factory, is in an elliptical orbit around Earth – its greatest distance from Earth (the apogee) at this stage is some 131,000 kilometers.
While the press wants to trivialize this image by calling it a selfie, it was taken for very important engineering reasons. It demonstrates that the camera and the spacecraft’s pointing systems are working, exactly as planned.
Beresheet will continue to raise the apogee of its orbit until it enters the Moon’s gravitational sphere of influence, when it will then shift into lunar orbit.