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Photo: ASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Israel's Beresheet lander is now in orbit around the moon, setting the stage for the spacecraft's historic landing on the lunar surface expected on April 11.

Why it matters: If the landing is successful, Beresheet — which means "genesis" in Hebrew — will become the first privately-funded mission to make it to the moon's surface. Historically, nations like the U.S., China, and Russia have been the only entities capable of landing a probe on the moon, but if SpaceIL succeeds, it will show that space is becoming more accessible for all.

SpaceIL's initial data shows that Beresheet is likely in a good orbit, but the non-profit will continue to monitor the spacecraft to track exactly what its orbit is looking like in the coming hours.

The big picture: SpaceIL's mission is centered around inspiring Israeli children — and people around the world — with the beauty and drama of spaceflight.

  • "I think that this milestone means a huge deal for the team, since we can easily see the effect we have on the people and especially on the children of Israel," SpaceIL team member Yoav Landsman told Axios ahead of orbital insertion. "Personally, I'm in awe of the tremendous interest of the worldwide space industry and community. We actually paving the way to commercial lunar landers, and I am grateful to be responsible for a major part of it."

Originally, the mission started off as part of the Google Lunar XPrize, designed to bolster the space industry by awarding money to private companies for landing on the moon and performing a series of tasks. After that contest ended without a winner in 2018, SpaceIL continued to aim for the moon, launching Beresheet aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in February.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Biden explains justification for Syria strike in letter to Congress

Photo: Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden told congressional leadership in a letter Saturday that this week's airstrike against facilities in Syria linked to Iranian-backed militia groups was consistent with the U.S. right to self-defense.

Why it matters: Some Democrats, including Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), have criticized the Biden administration for the strike and demanded a briefing.

10 hours ago - Health

FDA authorizes Johnson & Johnson's one-shot COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

Photo: Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: The authorization of a third coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. will help speed up the vaccine rollout across the country, especially since the J&J shot only requires one dose as opposed to Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech's two-shot vaccines.

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios