Israel's Beresheet spacecraft crashed during attempt to land on the moon

Michele Stevens
April 12, 2019

Israel is now the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the moon - if you're counting a crash-landing as a landing. Real-time telemetry provided by SpaceIL showed the spacecraft was descending too quickly for its low altitude, and though the team was eventually able to restart the engine, it was too late.

Israel's first attempt at landing an unmanned spacecraft on the Moon today ended in a hard landing after an engine failure caused it to miss its descent window.

Before the mission's failure, Beresheet snapped a selfie as it approached the lunar surface.

So far, only three nations have succeeded in carrying out a "soft", or controlled, landing on the lunar surface: the United States, the Soviet Union and China.

Beresheet launched February 21 as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which released the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit around the Earth. And, most importantly, it failed to land because its mission was never about actually landing on the Moon anyway.

Israeli NGO SpaceIL and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the two main partners, describe the project as the "world's first spacecraft built in a non-governmental mission", with philanthropist Morris Kahn putting up $40 million of the $100 million budget.

"If at first you don't succeed, you try again", Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who recently secured his fifth term, added. This marks the unfortunate end of the first attempt at this mission, a mission which also saw the first Israeli spacecraft leave our Earth's orbit - in the history of humanity.

Open University planetary and space science professor Monica Grady said "they'll be looking at the landing site really closely, which will help to work out how the magnetic measurements of the Moon fit in with the geology and geography of the Moon, which is really important to understand how the Moon formed". It's not just the last two months since the launch; it's been eight and a half years that we've been working to make this moment happen. "We're looking forward to future opportunities to explore the Moon together".

It is an incredible achievement to have gotten this far. It is a privilege to be part of this mission that's taking one more step towards solving it'.

NASA has made its Deep Space Network available to transmit data and has installed a small laser retroreflector aboard the lander to test its potential as a navigation tool.

Beresheet is equipped with six 8 megapixel high resolution cameras, and five of them are arranged so that they can create a panorama of the lunar surface while the sixth camera is pointed at the aforementioned Israeli flag plaque.

"We're going on this", Netanyahu said in Hebrew.

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