Israel crashed its lunar lander into the Moon's surface

Katie Ramirez
November 6, 2019

SpaceIL's Beresheet lunar lander, which was part of a privately-funded mission that would have made Israel the fourth country to successfully land on the Moon, faltered at the very last second.

For 48 days, Beresheet's ground crew watched, monitored and executed every maneuver of the spacecraft from a control center at IAI's Yehud headquarters.

Beresheet was sent to the moon to shoot photos with high-resolution cameras and conduction experiments, but it appears the main engine failed while the spacecraft attempted a soft landing. Unable to stop, it smashed into the Moon's gray dirt - its mission ended. A full investigation will now begin.

"We definitely crashed on surface of Moon", said the general manager of the space division of Israel Aerospace Industries, Opher Doron. The attempt alone is a huge achievement.

After years of efforts, Israel's Beresheet lunarcraft landed on the moon- but with a crash. However, a tiny country dreamt big and made it to the moon.

The roughly 1,300-pound four-legged probe was designed and built by an Israeli nonprofit called SpaceIL and backed by about US$100 million in private funding. "And that caused an unfortunate chain of events we're not sure about", the official said. The privately funded lunar lander will face its biggest challenge during the landing maneuver, the last stage of the journey controlled exclusively by the spacecraft's computer.

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Beresheet was created to make some measurements of the local gravity field around its landing site during its two or three Earth days of work on the moon. Israel's spacecraft is by far the smallest and is also the cheapest mission of those to have come before it, weighing in at just 1,300 pounds and costing $100m in private donations - just a shade of the billions of dollars it has cost to previously to get there. That communication system enabled the spacecraft to transmit a picture of the moon from only 22 km. altitude ahead of the ill-fated landing.

"But we've got good engineers, the spacecraft has responded well to our instructions over the last two months (...) I'm reasonably confident but a little nervous".

Since that time, there have been a number of intentional impacts, most notably the Indian Moon Impact Probe in 2008.

Its frame held a time capsule of digital files the size of coins containing the Torah, children's drawings, dictionaries in 27 languages, Israeli songs, as well as memories of a Holocaust survivor.

The motivation to inspire younger generations to pursue scientific studies, Israel's version of the "Apollo Effect", has remained constant since the beginning of SpaceIL's endeavor eight years ago, when co-founders Weintraub, Yariv Bash and Kfir Damari enrolled in the Google Lunar X Prize challenge.

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