'Small country, big dreams:' Private Israeli spacecraft misses moon landing

Science										
		
																	Oops! Israel’s Beresheet lander crashed into the Moon					
								
			
	
		Mike Wehner			@MikeWehner

Communication was lost as the SpaceIL team appeared to have trouble landing the spacecraft due to an apparent engine malfunction.

As everyone saw during the livestream of the landing attempt, everything was going very, very well for the privately-funded Moon landing mission.

Opher Doron, general manger of the Israel Aerospace Industries space program, was also in hopeful spirits despite the crash. "I didn't realize it was impossible and the three engineers who started this project didn't realize it was impossible, and the way we in Israel think, nothing is impossible".

Beresheet was created to make some measurements of the local gravity field around its landing site during its two or three Earth days of work on the moon.

If it had succeeded, the robotic lander, named Beresheet, which means "Genesis" or "in the beginning" in Hebrew, would have been the first on the moon by a private organization, and it would have added Israel to just three nations - the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China - to have accomplished that feat.

The unmanned spacecraft would have taken Israel into an exclusive club of space-exploring nations. The Trump-led U.S. administration too wants to send astronauts back to the moon.

SpaceIL broke the news on its livestream of the landing attempt, and it's unknown what caused Beresheet to malfunction when it was close to the moon, CNBC noted.

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For 48 days, Beresheet's ground crew watched, monitored and executed every maneuver of the spacecraft from a control center at IAI's Yehud headquarters.

Morris Kahn, a South African-born Israeli billionaire, is the main backer but the US Republican party and pro-Israel funder Miriam Adelson and her casino-owning husband, Sheldon, also gave $24m. "We're extraordinarily proud they made it this far". It has already succeeded in entering the moon's orbit, which is an accomplishment achieved by only seven countries.

The Beresheet lander was shipped to Florida and integrated into the payload for the Nusantara Satu mission and launched successfully on the night of February 21, 2019 aboard the Falcon 9 Block 5 vehicle into a geostationary transfer orbit.

The spacecraft crashed in the last part of its journey, moments before it was supposed to land.

In other words, despite the less-than-perfect landing, Xprize will still award the group their full $1-million Dollars prize so SpaceIL can "continue their work and pursue Beresheet 2.0" in the near future.

"We are still the seventh country to get to the moon", said Winetraub. After the mission concludes, IAI is looking at the possibility of offering the lander design for commercial lunar missions.

US President Donald Trump's administration announced in March it was speeding up plans to send American astronauts back to the moon, bringing forward the target date from 2028 to 2024.

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