Israel's Beresheet Moon landing mission ends in failure
Israel's first attempt to land a spacecraft on the Moon has ended in failure. At about 7:23 pm Israel time, interrupted communications and an engine malfunction aboard the unmanned Beresheet lander resulted in the craft being unable to reduce its velocity sufficiently to prevent it from crashing into the lunar surface.
Despite today's crash, neither SpaceIL, the private company that built and operated Beresheet (Hebrew for "Genesis"), nor the Israeli government appear disheartened by the end of the mission. Opher Doran, the general manager of Israel Aerospace's space division, which was a partner on the mission, pointed out that despite the failure to land safely, Israel is now the seventh country to orbit the Moon and the fourth to reach the surface. It is also the first to have a private company undertake a lunar mission.
Shortly after the end of the mission was announced, President of SpaceIL, Morris Kahn said, "Well, we didn't make it, but we definitely tried. And I think the achievement of getting to where we got is really tremendous. I think we can be proud."
The exact cause of the crash has yet to be finally determined, but in the final moments of Beresheet's approach, there was a series of telemetry failures as communications were relayed through NASA's Deep Space network. At the same time, the main engine failed and a system reboot was ordered, but the craft was too low and traveling too fast for this to be effective, resulting in the loss of the lander.
Beresheet began as a bid for the Google Lunar X-Prize, which ended without a winner. It was the smallest lander ever sent to the Moon with a mass of only 1,322 lb (600 kg). It carried a digital time capsule containing over 50 million pages of data, including the entirety of Wikipedia, the Bible, children's drawings, a holocaust survivor memorial, the Israeli national anthem, the Israeli flag, and the Israeli Declaration of Independence.
"If at first you don't succeed, try again," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was present in mission control during the landing attempt.
The video below is a replay of the live stream. It is in Hebrew with English commentary.
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I was a bit shocked as they kept on turning the main engine on and off, it was as if their speed monitoring had too fine a setting. Hindsight is always 20/20 but I would have designed it so that the main engine came on for the landing and stayed on, the peripheral engines would then do the fine adjusting. They had obviously deemed that it was too complicated to use a throttled engine which is what Apollo used.
One last thought. the picture of the moon above is the only one that was shown/ Is it my eyes or is that structure on the moons surface? incidentally, all of the engines failed a few seconds after that photo was shown.
More widely, it's been hard coming to understand that most US space work has been military. I have therefore welcomed the openness of SpaceX and now Israel in streaming these big events live... it's a step in the right direction. Cheers John