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Israeli spacecraft crashes during moon landing

April 11, 2019

Seconds away from landing on the moon, the Beresheet spacecraft's main engine failed. At a cost of $100 million, it is considered one of "the lowest-budget spacecraft to ever undertake such a mission."

Beresheet spacecraft during launch
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Denemark

Israeli spacecraft Beresheet "appeared to have crashed on the moon's surface," said the Israel Space Agency on Thursday. The agency said the main engine had failed during landing maneuvers.

"We didn't make it, but we definitely tried," said philanthropist Morris Kahn, who backed the privately-funded project. "The spacecraft Beresheet did not successfully complete its landing on the moon."

Read more:Opinion: Israel is playing politics on the moon 

At a cost of $100 million (€89 million), the 1,290-pound (585-kilogram) spacecraft is considered one of "the lowest-budget spacecraft to ever undertake such a mission."

Engine failure

The landing sequence of the Beresheet spaceship lasted around 21 minutes, during which it suffered periodic engine and communications failures. Its circuitous flight path was around 4 million miles (6.5 million kilometers) — a direct route from the Earth to the moon is about 240,000 miles.

Opher Doron, the general manager of the space division of state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, said the engine of the small robotic spacecraft turned off shortly before landing. By the time power was restored, the craft was moving too fast for it to land safely on the moon's surface.

"We definitely crashed on the surface of the moon," Doron said, adding that pieces of the Beresheet spacecraft were scattered at the planned landing site.

Scientists were still trying to figure out what caused the engine failure.


The incident occurred in front of a packed audience that included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and was broadcast live on Israeli television.

"If at first you don't succeed, try try again," Netanyahu said, quoting the proverb popularized by 19th century British author William Edward Hickson.

The Europe Israel Public Affairs (EIPA) tweeted the last photo sent by the spacecraft, saying that even though "it didn't go as planned ... we couldn't be more proud."

"This is the last picture we have from Beresheet spaceship seconds before it touches the face of the moon," said the EIPA.

In February, Beresheet, which is Hebrew for "Genesis," was launched on an unmanned rocket from a NASA launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The rocket was a Falcon 9 from Elon Musk's SpaceX.

Only three countries have successfully carried out a "soft" landing on the moon, including the US, China and the now-defunct Soviet Union.

Read more:German space scientists will pay you €16,500 to lie in bed for 60 days 

ls/amp (Reuters, AP, AFP)