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April 11, 2019 4:39 pm

Israel’s Beresheet Spacecraft Crashes into the Moon During Landing Attempt

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

One of the final images sent by Israeli spacecraft Beresheet before it crash-landed on the moon. Photo: courtesy of Space IL.

Israel’s inaugural Beresheet spacecraft failed to land safely on the Moon on Thursday night, after mission controllers lost contact with the vehicle during the landing procedure. The craft is assumed to have crashed into the lunar surface.

Minutes before the craft was due to land, its main engine shut down and communication with the spacecraft was lost. Both briefly returned, but too late to arrest the craft’s velocity, which was too fast for a safe landing on the surface. Communication was then lost for good, with the working assumption for the present being that the craft was destroyed on impact.

The first privately-funded vehicle to reach the moon, Beresheet was built by SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries and was launched on February 22. Its voyage resulted in several “selfies” of the spacecraft with the earth and the moon in the background that went viral in the media. The ship also carried a plaque with the Israeli flag and the words “small country, big dreams,” as well as “the people of Israel live” in Hebrew.

When Beresheet achieved lunar orbit on April 4, Israel became only the seventh country on earth to achieve such a feat. It would have been the fourth country to land a craft successfully on the surface if Beresheet had succeeded.

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Channel 13 reported that, following the mission failure, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the small group of VIPs who assembled at mission control to watch the landing attempt, “If at first you don’t succeed, try again.”

“The fact of this attempt is a major accomplishment,” he said. “We are the seventh country to achieve this, we will be the fourth if we persevere.”

President Reuven Rivlin watched the landing attempt from his official residence with a group of schoolchildren. After the fate of the spacecraft became clear, Rivlin said, “Thanks to all the people who brought the Israeli spacecraft to the moon. Not as we wanted, but they brought a spacecraft to the moon. There are sometimes disappointments, but these disappointments are canceled out by the achievements we also reached on this night.”

 

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