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Israel’s Beresheet Lander Attempts to Land on the Moon. Watch Live

Only four countries have landed on the moon: the United States, Russia, and China, but today Israel might join the list

Israel launched its first lunar lander known as Beresheet on Feb. 21, riding aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The craft orbited the Earth for six weeks before moving into orbit around the Moon on April 4. It’s been in that orbit for one week, getting ready to attempt its soft landing on the lunar surface.

At approximately 3 or 4 p.m. EDT (1700 or 1800 GMT) today, April 11, the Beresheet mission team from the nonprofit organization SpaceIL and the government-owned aerospace company Israel Aerospace Industries will begin the landing process.

You can watch the live stream. It will start at 2:45 p.m. EDT (1845 GMT), which will be 9:45 p.m. local time at SpaceIL's control center in Yehud, Israel.

If everything goes according to plan, Beresheet will land at a site within Mare Serenitatis (the Sea of Serenity), a vast lava plain on the lunar near side. Once the spacecraft has landed, it will be active for two Earth days before the mission is complete.  

Although the mission itself is short, the team’s primary objective is to simply land Beresheet safely, demonstrating Israel's engineering capabilities, rather than try to answer any science questions. However, the craft is equipped with a retroreflector that NASA gave them, which scientists will use to locate the distance between that instrument and Earth. It’s also equipped with a device to measure the magnetic field of the moon, as well as an Israeli flag, information from English Wikipedia, copies of the Bible, and drawings from Israeli children.

The Beresheet mission stems from the now defunct Google Lunar X Prize competition, which started in 2007 asking teams to land rovers on the moon's surface. Although no won the grand prize of $20 million before the contest ended Google has announced that if Beresheet's landing is successful, they will award the team $1 million.

Israel isn’t the only country with a renewed interest in the Moon. On Jan 2, China landed its Chang'e 4 lander and rover on the dark side of the Moon, something that no country had achieved before. India also has plans to land on the moon's surface for the first time in 2019 with its Chandrayaan-2 mission, and NASA has an ambitious program to send humans back to the moon by 2024.