Israeli Lunar Lander Crashes on Moon Surface

12 April, 2019, 09:42 | Author: Emmett Howard
  • Les Lyles UAG meeting

Beresheet, which means "in the beginning" in Hebrew, had lost contact with ground control as it was making its final descent to the Moon.

Doron said the spacecraft's engine turned off shortly before landing, and scientists were still trying to figure out the cause of the failure.

Beresheet was built in collaboration with Israel Aerospace Industries and the Israel Space Agency for a cost of just $100 million, cheap for this kind of mission, largely because the vehicle has not been equipped with backup systems.

The Israeli spacecraft was the first privately funded mission to the moon.

"We definitely crashed on the surface of the moon", said Opher Doron, general manager of the space division of Israel Aerospace Industries. "It's been an fantastic journey, I hope we get a chance for another one".

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.

If successful, the mission will result in Israel becoming the fourth country to successfully complete a soft landing on the lunar surface. Furthermore, it will make Israel the fourth nation-and the smallest by quite a distance-to land a spacecraft on the moon, along with the United States, China and Russian Federation (when it was part of the Soviet Union). The sheer enormity of the undertaking makes it seem impossible, but thanks to some incredible rocket science, Israel has joined the short list of nations that have so much as sent a craft into the Moon's orbit.

On Wednesday, the lander made a manoeuvre to lower its altitude for a lunar orbit of between nine and 124 miles while preparing for the landing.

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But Beresheet's failure marks the first accidental lunar crash in more than 48 years, following a successful Chinese landing January 3.

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.

"This is not what we were hoping for, but I think in the last few years we made history", said Kfir Damari.

Rob Westcott, senior propulsion engineer at Nammo, said: "We've never used an engine in this kind of application before".

SpaceIL pressed on with its dream, convinced the mission would help inspire Israel's next generation to study science and engineering.

SpaceIL and IAI have indicated that should a problem arise, the spacecraft will re-enter its elliptical orbit around the moon and abort the landing process.

SpaceIL was founded eight years ago to compete for the Google Lunar XPrize. "Never lose hope - your hard work, teamwork, and innovation is inspiring to all!" tweeted Aldrin, who was a member of the US Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969. But the landing was the riskiest part of the mission. It's been reported, based on information from the livestream, that an Inertial Measurement Unit failed and the team was unable to reset the component due to a repeated loss of communications with the JPL network.

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