Israel's Beresheet spacecraft fails in moon landing attempt

Bridenstine Space Symposium

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Israeli NGO SpaceIL and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the project´s two main partners, have described it as the "world´s first spacecraft built in a non-governmental mission".

Beresheet's engine stopped working around 10 kilometers from the surface, with the vehicle crashing into the Moon at a speed of over 130 meters per second.

The failed landing was viewed nationwide in Israel and the US space agency NASA also broadcast the landing mission live on its dedicated TV channels, as well as online.

Although the mission failed, it was relatively affordable compared with previous lunar-landing attempts.

A screenshot from Instagram showing posts with the "Israel to the moon" hashtag.

It was expected to land in the Sea of Serenity, on the northern hemisphere of the moon's near side.

The lander is equipped with a single British-built LEROS 2b engine fueled by MMH (monomethylhydrazine) and Monday (mixed oxides of nitrogen) for major maneuvers and the landing itself, along with small thrusters at the bottom of the craft.

On Wednesday night, the spacecraft shifted into a more elliptical orbit in preparation for its moon landing.

Its circuitous flight path was around 4 million miles (6.5 million km).

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was there watching in the control room along with a few dozen other people.

Scientists had hoped to land its magnetometer, digital time capsule, and laser retroreflector on the Moon - as well as a bible.

The craft will be armed with instruments to measure the moon's magnetism, says Oded Aharonson who is heading the mission's science team. "They will be the recipients of our first ever $1M Moonshot Award, in honor of their achievements and their milestone as the first privately-funded entity to orbit the Moon". Today, SpaceIL's unmanned craft Beresheet crashed during a live feed of the descent on Thursday and was deemed a total loss. Beresheet is Hebrew for "in the beginning".

Its cost of $100m is a fraction of what would normally be spent on a venture like this.

"Well we didn't make it, but we definitely tried", Morris Kahn, President of SpaceIL, told the New York Times. "I think we can be proud". We dare to dream. "If we succeeded every time, there would be no reward", Zurbuchen tweeted.

The design of the craft changed twice since its first inception in 2011 until the final touches were made past year.

The Israeli spacecraft was the first privately funded mission to the moon.

While the race ended with no victor in March 2018, SpaceIL continued with its mission to reach the Moon.

It had hitched a ride on the SpaceX Falcon rocket, which had been launched from Florida in February. The actual building of the spacecraft from full-scale development took just four years.

If the spacecraft had landed on the moon successfully, Israel would have become the fourth country - behind the United States, China and the former Soviet Union - to have successfully perform a soft-landing.

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