Israeli spacecraft enters lunar orbit ahead of moon landing

YEHUD, Israel — The first Israeli spacecraft to journey to the moon has passed its most crucial test yet: dropping into lunar orbit one week ahead of landing.

After traveling over 5.5 million kilometers (3.4 million miles) around the Earth and drawing ever closer to the moon, the small spacecraft on Thursday finally swung into the moon's elliptical orbit — keeping it on track for touchdown April 11.

Opher Doron, space division general manager at Israel Aerospace Industries, which worked with non-profit SpaceIL to build the spacecraft, hailed "the most significant maneuver we've made" on Thursday.

"Next is just the landing," Doron added, "which makes us quite a bit more nervous."

If all goes according to plan next week, Israel will become the fourth country to pull off a moon landing.

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