The Israeli spacecraft Beresheet crashed into the moon’s surface during its attempted landing last night.
Twenty minutes before the scheduled landing the engines slowed Beresheet’s descent but the spacecraft then lost communication with ground control during its final descent. It is believed that the main engine failed, meaning the spacecraft could not properly brake in time to cushion its landing.
During a live broadcast from the operation control room in Yehud outside Tel Aviv, Director Alex Friedman said: “As far as we can see, we were very close to the moon … we are on the moon, but not in the way that we wanted to.”
“We definitely crashed on the surface of the moon,” said Opher Doron of Israel Aerospace Industries.
The spacecraft was a joint venture between private companies SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries, funded almost entirely by private donations from well-known Jewish philanthropists, including South African billionaire Morris Kahn, Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, Lynn Schusterman, and others.
The failed landing was watched at a special event in Jerusalem attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and was broadcast live on national television. Netanyahu said: “We will try again. We reached the moon but we want to land more softly and this will be on the next attempt.” Israel was hoping to be the fourth country to land on the moon, after US, Russia and China.
In the press conference afterwards, SpaceIL co-founder Yonatan Winetraub said: “I want to say to kids watching. We didn’t reach the moon in one piece. That sucks. However, engineering and science are hard. Sometimes it doesn’t work the first time, sometimes it doesn’t work the second or third time. But it will work. I want to encourage you to continue studying these things so you can one day reach the moon, and the stars.”
Financial backer Morris Kahn said: “This is what happens, this is space. Space has its dangers, it’s a frontier that’s very difficult. We accepted the challenge. I’m glad we did it. We chose to dream, we chose to do, and we were not afraid.”