Israeli spacecraft crashes in attempt to reach moon

Pat Wise
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.

Israel is the fourth country to reach the moon, even if it wasn't in one piece.

Pepper watch the live broadcast of the SpaceIL spacecraft as it lost contact with Earth in Netanya, Thursday, April 11, 2019.

SpaceIL initially formed as a Google Lunar X Prize team, seeking the $20 million grand prize the X Prize Foundation offered to the first privately developed spacecraft to land on the surface, travel at least 500 meters and return images and video.

The four-legged spacecraft, which was approximately the size of a washing machine, had been circling the Earth in increasingly large orbits waiting to be captured by the moon's gravity.

The planned landing site for Beresheet was Mare Serenitatis, or the "Sea of Serenity", in the northern hemisphere of the Moon.

The blunder occurred on a live feed in the presence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, who arrived at the control center for the occasion. "The problem was that when we started with the engineering, we couldn't find an engine that was small enough but had sufficient power to allow us to safely land on the moon", Damari said.

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"Putting a spacecraft on the Moon is a little bit of a kind of a weird project", Kahn said.

The robotic Beresheet spacecraft, built by SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), aimed to become the first Israeli craft, and the first privately funded mission, ever to land softly on the moon.

Furthermore, it will make Israel the fourth nation-and the smallest by quite a distance-to land a spacecraft on the moon, along with the United States, China and Russian Federation (when it was part of the Soviet Union).

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". "And we really are making this dream come true".

In league with state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, SpaceIL worked with SpaceX and Spaceflight to arrange February's launch on the Falcon 9 as a secondary payload. The sheer enormity of the undertaking makes it seem impossible, but thanks to some unbelievable rocket science, Israel has joined the short list of nations that have so much as sent a craft into the Moon's orbit.

But the British-built engine that helped take Beresheet from Earth to the moon failed to properly slow the spacecraft during its final descent. "It's a tremendous achievement up 'til now". "We're extraordinarily proud they made it this far".

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