Beresheet heads for historic lunar landing

Les Lyles UAG meeting

The final moon accident before Beresheet came in 1971, when Luna 18 crashed during an attempt to land on some lunar mountains near the edge of Mare Fecunditatis.

The spacecraft successfully initiated the landing sequence, but a few kilometers above the moon's surface the main engine failed, meaning the spacecraft could not properly brake in time to cushion its landing.

"While NASA regrets the end of the SpaceIL mission without a successful lunar landing of the Beresheet lander, we congratulate SpaceIL, the Israel Aerospace Industries and the state of Israel on the incredible accomplishment of sending the first privately funded mission into lunar orbit", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

But that could be about to change, as a washing-machine-sized, privately funded Israeli spacecraft approaches the moon.

"I am sorry to say that our spacecraft did not make it in one piece to the moon", said Opher Doron, the manager of Israel Aerospace Industries' Space Division. "I think we can be proud".

A packed audience including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had gathered at mission control to watch the event, which was broadcast live on national television and YouTube.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Israel's first spacecraft created to land on the moon lifts off on the first privately-funded lunar mission at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 21, 2019. However, Beresheet had achieved a partial success in the moon mission after it successfully entered the lunar orbit on April 4 after a month and a half in transit, making Israel the seventh nation in the world to achieve this spatial feat.

The unmanned spacecraft would have taken Israel into an exclusive club of space-exploring nations.

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"We reached the moon, but we wanted to land more safely".

SpaceIL broke the news on its livestream of the landing attempt, and it's unknown what caused Beresheet to malfunction when it was close to the moon, CNBC noted. Signals from the spacecraft were lost at about 19:24 UTC (15:24 EDT), as Beresheet apparently crash-landed and stopped transmitting.

Morris Kahn, a South African-born Israeli billionaire, is the main backer but the US Republican party and pro-Israel funder Miriam Adelson and her casino-owning husband, Sheldon, also gave $24m.

Only three countries have ever landed a spacecraft on the moon: America, Russia and China. Mission control lost communications with the spacecraft when it was about 489 feet (149 meters) above the moon's surface.

The spacecraft hitched a ride on a SpaceX Falcon rocket launched from Florida in February.

Nevertheless, SpaceIL's team of about 50 engineers and entrepreneurs persisted.

The mission was initially a grab for Google's $20 million Lunar Xprize.

India hopes to become the next lunar country in the spring with its Chandrayaan-2 mission. It dangled tens of millions of dollars in prize money with the hope of spurring a private company to land a robot on the Moon by 2014.

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