Israeli spacecraft enters lunar orbit ahead of moon landing

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After traveling over 5.5 million kilometers (3.4 million miles) around the Earth and drawing ever closer to the moon, the spacecraft finally swung into the moon’s elliptical orbit – keeping it on track for touchdown April 11.”This was a milestone and it actually gives us a real shot at the moon,” said Yonatan Winetraub, co-founder of SpaceIL, the Israeli nonprofit that built the spacecraft.

The lander, dubbed “Beresheet,” Hebrew for “Genesis,” or “In the Beginning,” is the smallest spacecraft in history to have entered the moon’s orbit.

From the control center in Yehud, near Tel Aviv, a fleet of engineers tracked the spacecraft’s speed. In order to catapult away from the Earth and successfully “catch” the moon’s gravitational pull, Beresheet needed to slow down from 8,500 kilometers per hour (5,300 mph) to 7,500 kilometers per hour (4,700 mph).

Spectators observed from behind glass, holding their breath as screens showed Beresheet’s engines kicking into gear.

After five minutes, Beresheet hit the perfect velocity, and the engineers burst into applause, congratulating each other with hugs and handshakes

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