Privately Launched Israeli Spacecraft Smashes Into Moon

The Beresheet spacecraft

The Beresheet spacecraft

Upon finally reaching the Moon's surface (albeit at higher velocity than intended) it had traveled four million miles - officially having taken the longest route of any craft to ever visit the lunar surface.

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 crashed on the surface of the Moon after the main engine broke down", Eylon Levy, a journalist for i24News, tweeted after the failure. A full investigation will now begin.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on the less-than-perfect ending to the story, suggesting that "if you don't succeed, try again". Only seven nations have orbited the Moon, which means Israel still has a feather for its proverbial cap - just not the one it intended. The attempt alone is a huge achievement. (NASA had previously crashed Rangers 4, 5 and 6 into the moon between 1962 and 1964.) In 1966, the USSR became the first country to achieve a soft landing on the moon with Luna 9, followed by another with Luna 13. It was built by state-owned IAI and Israeli non-profit space venture SpaceIL with $US100 million ($A140m) funded nearly entirely by private donors.

"Well, we didn't make it, but we definitely tried", Kahn said after failure during Thursday's broadcast. He said the spacecraft was in pieces scattered at the planned landing site.

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.

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During Beresheet's descent, controllers lost communication with the craft.

He said the spacecraft's engine turned off shortly before landing, and scientists were still trying to figure out the cause. Once on the moon, the spacecraft will take photographs and send back crucial data on electronic magnets for a number of experiments in partnership with the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

"Sometimes it doesn't work the first, second, third or even fourth time, but eventually it will work". The Trump-led U.S. administration too wants to send astronauts back to the moon.

The Israeli team behind the Beresheet spacecraft's failed moon landing has explained that a "technical glitch" shut down one of the craft's engines, which sent it flying to its doom at 500kph. The mission budget stood at about NIS 350 million, far less than the other three countries spent when they undertook such a mission.

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.

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