Aussies aid Israel’s moon landing

David Shteinman (centre) with mission analysts Adam Michaels and Adam Greene and a mock-up of Beresheet.

AUSTRALIAN tracking stations are guiding Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft to the moon for a historic landing tomorrow (Friday), while a Sydney company analyses the craft’s transmitted data.

With Beresheet’s touchdown – the first by a privately funded space mission – Israel becomes only the fourth country, after the US, Russia and China, to land on the moon.

Speaking to The AJN on Tuesday as he prepared a descent manoeuvre, Eran Shmidt, deputy manager of Israel’s space agency SpaceIL, said Australian dishes near Canberra and in Western Australia are in a global network communicating with Beresheet.

And when Beresheet lands at 6am (Australian Eastern Time), engineer David Shteinman from Industrial Sciences Group (ISG) will be following events from Sydney.

The ISG managing director and his analysts have sifted data from Beresheet since its February 21 launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida on entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, entering lunar orbit on April 4.

“We’re analysing the tracking station’s performance to help SpaceIL to better predict Beresheet’s orbit,” explained Shteinman, who became involved five years ago.

He is excited Australia is again at the forefront of lunar history. Fifty years ago, a radio telescope in outback NSW kept the Apollo 11 mission on track, and gave the world live TV coverage of US astronaut Neil Armstrong’s “one small step … one giant leap” that began the first moon walk. Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who trod the moon, sent congratulations before Beresheet’s launch.

Said Shteinman, “As a joint Australian-Israeli citizen, I’m very proud to be involved … I think there’s a lot to be said for Israeli risk taking and giving things a go.”

Once Beresheet has landed, Shteinman’s team will analyse its data on the lunar magnetic field to learn more about the moon’s origins, although time will be limited, as the tiny module will be active only a few days.

But Beresheet will remain on the moon, displaying Israel’s flag, with a digital archive of human history, including a digital Torah, on board. 

Shmidt admitted he took time off from frenetic preparations last night, not to think about Israel’s election, but to gaze at the moon, “trying to imagine Beresheet is there … It’s amazing. It’s unbelievable”.

Follow Friday’s moon landing live on live.spaceil.com.

PETER KOHN