Published: Thu, April 11, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Israeli Beresheet Spacecraft Crashes During Moon Landing

Israeli Beresheet Spacecraft Crashes During Moon Landing

Beresheet marks the first time the Israelis have attempted to land a craft on the surface of the Moon. The landing, planned to take place on the northern end of Mare Serenitatis (Sea of Serenity) near the crater Posidonius-E, is scheduled for between 7 and 8 pm GMT (3-4 pm Eastern in the US) on Thursday, April 11th.

"Unfortunately, we failed to land the craft", one of the commanders of the mission said during the live broadcast. "It's a tremendous achievement up 'til now".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, fresh off his victory in Tuesday's general election, was expected to watch from the control room in Yehud, near Tel Aviv.

So far, only three other nations have carried out controlled "soft" landings of spacecraft on the lunar surface - the United States, the former Soviet Union and China.

But Beresheet accomplished plenty during its short life, as we shall see.

Israel's Beresheet lunar lander took a selfie and an Earthie on its way to the Moon.

Beresheet began as a dream by three young engineers - Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yehonatan Weintraub - and not a government program, making it the first privately funded space probe to shoot for the moon.

Image taken en route to the Moon – via SpaceIL
Image taken en route to the Moon – via SpaceIL

In late 2017 SpaceIL requested $30 million to finish the lander, and several donors came through, which ensured that the spacecraft could eventually fly, even as Google withdrew its sponsorship of the Lunar X-Prize in early 2018, stating no team could make the final deadline of March 31, 2018. It was built by Israeli non-profit space venture SpaceIL and state-owned defence contractor, Israel Aerospace Industries, with $100 million USA furnished nearly entirely by private donors.

The launch of the Beresheet spacecraft aboard a SpaceX rocket on February 22, 2019.

At launch it weighed 585 kilograms, most of which was fuel burned during its circuitous flight path of around 6.5 million kilometres.

The landing legs have crushable aluminum honeycomb structures as well as stainless steel deformable structures that both are meant to absorb the energy of the landing, and they were extensively tested at IAI along with the rest of the spacecraft.

The Israeli mission comes amid renewed global interest in the moon, 50 years after American astronauts first walked on its surface. That 32-second maneuver shifted the spacecraft into a highly elliptical orbit with a closest lunar approach of just 9 to 10 miles (15 to 17 kilometers) and a most-distant point 125 miles (200 km) from the gray dirt, mission team members said.

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.

NASA and its Deep Space Network are aiding the mission in tracking and communications.

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