Space

Israel's Beresheet Moon landing mission ends in failure

Image returned by Beresheet during its landing attempt approach
Image returned by Beresheet during its landing attempt approach
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Image returned by Beresheet during its landing attempt approach
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Image returned by Beresheet during its landing attempt approach
Beresheet prior to launch
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Beresheet prior to launch

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."

Beresheet prior to launch
Beresheet prior to launch

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.

Source: SpaceIL

LIVE broadcast - Beresheet lands on the Moon Fasten your seatbelts, we are about to land.

8 comments
SimonClarke
I watched this live last night . 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.
highlandboy
I’m glad they were not in charge of manned landings - or we would have dead astronauts.
MerlinGuy
@highlandboy - Really? Is that necessary?
owlbeyou
The Russians and Americans had numerous failures while attempting to get to the moon, so the Israelis can chalk it up to experience, but the fact that they 'piggybacked' on someone else's space launch makes this effort somewhat less significant. They went for the glory without all the hardware needed, and got burned. Oh well.
FabianLamaestra
"Always build two of everything": From the movie 'Contact'.
Leonard Foster Jr
I found it strange all the malfunctioning towards the end, and no pictures other than one?
John in Brisbane
Sorry to hear about this. I've been out of the loop and missed the Falcon Heavy launch too... missing out! It puts NASA's run of successes on Mars in fresh perspective - these are expensive jaunts to send small devices a long way away with no real backup. There are obvious mixed feelings about a controversial country being involved in an increasingly strategic area of interest, but I've always liked how IAF etc have done so much with such a small sector there... a good model for others I reckon. 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
ljaques
I wish they would simply perfect anti-gravity so things like this wouldn't happen. Stick with cold fusion and anti-gravity, guys! 2 simple ideas. ;)