Israel's Lunar Spacecraft Snaps First Shots of Dark Side of the Moon

The pictures, taken from a distance of 470 kilometers, show 4.5 million year-old craters

The far side of the moon

Israel's lunar spacecraft snapped two of its first pictures of the far side of the moon while undertaking one of its most challenging maneuvers yet – leaving the Earth's gravitational pull and being captured by lunar gravity.

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The far side of the moon, with the Earth on the left

One of the peripheral cameras of Beresheet, Hebrew for Genesis, took the picture from a distance of about 470 kilometers (about 292 miles) from the face of the moon. The largest craters in the pictures are over 4.5 billion years old; the smaller ones are younger. From one of the photos, the Earth is only visible as a bright orb in the distance.  

In order to complete the maneuver, Beresheet needed to slow down from its velocity of 8,500 kilometers per hour to 7,500. The spacecraft will now circle the moon in diminishing orbits. After that, it will face its next big challenge: Beresheet is expected to land on the moon next week.