Israel's Beresheet Spacecraft Crashes Into Moon During Landing Attempt

Bridenstine Space Symposium

Bridenstine Space Symposium

It suffered periodic engine and communications failures during the 21 minutes or so of the landing sequence. It was a joint venture between private companies SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries, funded nearly entirely by private donations from well-known Jewish philanthropists, including South African billionaire Morris Kahn, Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, Lynn Schusterman, and others.

The Israeli mission comes amid renewed global interest in the moon, 50 years after American astronauts first walked on its surface.

"Well we didn't make it but we definitely tried", said Morris Kahn the president of SpaceIL, the company that created the lander which appears to have crash landed on the moon today. "I'm not crushed, I'm disappointed, but I'm very proud of what we achieved".

Following the result, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately announced that Israel will make another attempt, likely in the next two to three years.

An Israeli spacecraft will become the first private craft to land on the moon when it touches down on the lunar surface later on Thursday.

Had it not failed, Israel would have become the fourth country - after Russian Federation, the U.S., and China - to land on the moon. Beresheet was the first private spacecraft to insert itself into lunar orbit and made Israel the seventh nation to achieve such a feat.

Beresheet's slow-and-steady strategy paid off on April 4, when the moon's gravity captured the lander.

"For me it actually started on Facebook when a friend wrote to me saying he wanted to open the Israeli team to compete in the X Prize", Damari said.

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He said the spacecraft's engine turned off shortly before landing, and scientists were still trying to figure out the cause. Only seven nations have orbited the Moon, which means Israel still has a feather for its proverbial cap - just not the one it intended.

"We will try again", said Netanyahu.

The mission was initially a grab for Google's $20 million Lunar Xprize. The spacecraft hitched a ride on a SpaceX rocket launched from Florida in February.

NASA also participated in the mission and installed a laser retro-reflector on the spacecraft to assist with communication after landing.

SpaceIL pressed on with its dream, convinced the mission would help inspire Israel's next generation to study science and engineering.

If the landing is successful, the mission is expected to last just a couple of days before the spacecraft succumbs to the sun's rays. "Never lose hope - your hard work, teamwork, and innovation is inspiring to all!" tweeted Aldrin, who was a member of the US Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969.

The final manoeuvre on Wednesday brought it into a tight elliptical orbit around the Moon, between 15 kilometres to 17 kilometres from the surface at its closest.

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