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article imageBeresheet spacecraft crashes into lunar surface during landing

By Karen Graham     Apr 11, 2019 in Technology
Yehud - Israel’s attempt to become the first country to land a private spacecraft on the moon has ended in failure Thursday afternoon. This leaves the list of moon-landing nations at three — the Soviet Union, the United States, and China.
Watching the live video-stream from mission control, it was nip-and-tuck shortly after Beresheet began its descent to the moon's surface about 3 p.m., even though everything had looked good at the beginning of the broadcast.
Beresheet even sent back a selfie at just 22 kilometers (13.6 miles) from the surface, much to the delight of the crowd present for the landing at mission control.
Right after the selfie was sent back, transmission of data was lost for a minute or two, but resumed. The main engine, working along in an autonomous mode to set the lander down softly, suddenly went dead about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the surface. After working to reset the engine, mission control confirmed just minutes later that it had lost contact.
Perfect Launch of Beresheet on February 21  2019.
Perfect Launch of Beresheet on February 21, 2019.
SpaceX via Twitter
"We had a failure in the spacecraft, we, unfortunately, have not managed to land successfully," Opher Doron, the general manager of IAI said during a live broadcast from mission control. "It's a tremendous achievement up 'til now."
"If at first, you don't succeed, you try again," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who watched Beresheet's landing attempt from SpaceIL's control center in Yehud, Israel, along with a group of space and government officials.
A near-historic accomplishment
Israel did not land on the lunar surface, but it almost did, and that in itself, is quite an accomplishment. We must remember that Beresheet's story started out back in 2011 when a group of guys decided to try and win the Google Lunar X Prize that required the winner to soft-land a rover on the moon.
The SpaceIL team with Beresheet.
The SpaceIL team with Beresheet.
Beresheet was born in the imagination of Yonatan Winetraub in 2009. At the time the 22-year-old Israeli aerospace engineer was spending a year at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. He heard about the Google XPrize and wondered if he couldn't come up with a lander.
Winetraub and two friends founded SpaceIL, the nonprofit that created Beresheet. Funding was a problem at first, but eventually, things did work out and the lunar lander began to take shape. SpaceIL and its partner, Israel Aerospace Industries, overcame a number of problems in the development of the little moon lander that was the size of a washing machine.
Beresheet took it slow and steady from the moment it was launched on February 21, hitching a ride on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and looping around Earth for six weeks as it got closer and closer to its elliptical orbit with the moon. In all, Beresheet traveled over 4 million miles (6.5 million kilometers) during that six week period, an amazingly long time and distance.
Israel's Beresheet spacecraft is due to touch down on the moon on April 11
Israel's Beresheet spacecraft is due to touch down on the moon on April 11
-, AFP/File
Beresheet has accomplished much
Prof. Oded Aharonson of the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences said last year, “The main scientific goal will be measuring the magnetic field of the Moon. This will help us understand its source." He went on to explain that at one time, the moon's core was very hot and this energy led some rocks on the surface to be magnetized.
Other major goals, according to SpaceIL and IAI representatives include advancing Israel's space program, increasing the nation's technological know-how and getting young people more interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
The mission has certainly done that - and it managed to make it to lunar orbit, took a beautiful photograph and "almost" made a soft-landing. And all of this excitement only cost about $100 million.
"Well, we didn't make it but we definitely tried," Morris Kahn, an entrepreneur who helped found the Beresheet mission, said shortly after the spacecraft's failed landing attempt. "I think we can be proud."
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