The First Private Moon Mission Just Spectacularly Failed, Right Before Landing

Jo Lloyd
April 12, 2019

The Israeli Aerospace Industry's space division and SpaceIL, the non-profit that sent the craft into space, are now indicating they presume it to be damaged beyond further function. "We reached the moon, but we want to land more comfortably, and that is for the next time".

"We had a failure in the spacecraft, we unfortunately have not managed to land successfully", Opher Doron, the general manager of IAI said during a live broadcast from mission control.

He added: "In the last two months, we've been controlling the spacecraft from Earth-from Israel-but the landing itself is actually totally autonomous", he said.

SpaceIL will land its spacecraft "Beresheet", which, in hebrew, means Genesis.

"Beresheet crashed on the surface of the Moon after the main engine broke down", Eylon Levy, a journalist for i24News, tweeted after the failure.

Joining in the festivities, the Israeli Airports Authority listed the expected moon landing on its arrivals timetable.

The SpaceIL spacecraft was originally designed to meet regulations set out by the now-defunct Google Lunar X Prize competition, an worldwide contest that challenged the world's engineers to create and send the first private lander to the moon. He told those present, "If at first you don't succeed, try again". "We are trying to clarify the matter", a member of the SpaceIL team monitoring the landing sequence said.

The unmanned Israeli spacecraft Beresheet, a privately funded mission, failed upon its final descent to the moon Thursday, dashing hopes of joining the ranks of global superpowers in successfully landing on the lunar surface.

The project began as part of the Google Lunar XPrize, which in 2010 offered $30 million in awards to encourage scientists and entrepreneurs to come up with relatively low-priced moon missions.

If the landing had been achieved, Israel would have become the fourth country to ever land a spacecraft on the moon.

The country's president, Reuven Rivlin, has invited 80 middle school space buffs to view the landing with him at his official Jerusalem residence, his office said in a statement.

The SpaceIL team also placed a digital time capsule aboard the lander, featuring a DVD with 30 million pages worth of data called the "lunar library" that is a full compendium of human knowledge, intended as a backup if humanity got into trouble, or to show any alien beings that come across Beresheet in the far future that humanity existed. "And we really are making this dream come true". The trip will total a distance of 6.5 million kilometers, which is the longest journey to the moon.

Phil Larson of the University of Colorado, who was a space adviser in the Obama White House, said the Israeli effort underlines that "space is still extremely hard, and landing human made objects on other worlds is an utmost challenge".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was present at the launch following his reelection, also commented on the failure from the mission's control center in Yehud, Israel.

The mission was initially a grab for Google's $20 million Lunar Xprize.

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