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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