Israel's lunar spacecraft takes selfie in outer space

Selfie from Beresheet

The spacecraft, which is the first one Israel has sent to the moon, took a picture with its "selfie camera" and sent it back to scientists on the ground Tuesday.

Beresheet, which means "Genesis" in Hebrew, lifted from Cape Canaveral atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the private US-based SpaceX company of entrepreneur Elon Musk.

The trip is scheduled to last seven weeks, with the Beresheet due to touch down on April 11. The moon is about 240,000 miles away. The the only country to send humans to the moon with 12 men walking on its surface during the Apollo missions between 1969-1972.

The year 2019 marks the 50th year of the first moon landing, when USA astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first walked on the lunar surface. A touchdown would make Israel the fourth country to pull off a moon landing.

The Beresheet lander, which is the size of a dishwasher and takes its name from the Hebrew phrase for "In the Beginning", was built by SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries with almost $100 million in backing from Israeli billionaire Morris Kahn, Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson and other private donors. In addition to its flag-emblazoned plaque, the spacecraft is carrying a CD-sized "time capsule" that contains digitized files of children's drawings, photos and information about Israeli culture.

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. Japan, the European Space Agency and India have all crash-landed probes on the moon.

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