Watch first privately funded craft land on the moon

James Marshall
November 6, 2019

Israel would have become the fourth country to land on the Moon, with SpaceIL claiming a spot for itself in the history books. That mission ended in failure on Thursday, but SpaceIL still proved that the sky truly is not the limit for a small group of Israelis and supporters fearless enough to break through it.

In other words, despite the less-than-perfect landing, Xprize will still award the group their full $1-million Dollars prize so SpaceIL can "continue their work and pursue Beresheet 2.0" in the near future. It has spent 47 days, gradually making ever-widening elliptical orbits around the Earth until it was "captured" by the moon's gravitational pull and looped closer to its surface.

"We're going on this", Netanyahu said in Hebrew.

One of the interesting aspects of the Beresheet mission was the ultra-low costs involved in sending the robotic photographer to the Moon: it required only around $100 million, and it was able to make the journey on the pint-sized budget by hitching a ride on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket back on February 22nd. However, around 20 minutes before the scheduled landing, Beresheet's engine started firing to slow the lunar lander's descent. Beresheet had planned to land in the Mare Serenitatis region.

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. The craft also toted a small laser retroreflector array built by NASA, a technology demonstration that could increase the precision of future touchdowns on the moon and other celestial bodies. Then, thanks to a combination of ground control and mechanical errors, the main engine failed to fire.

Kahn told Business Insider before Beresheet's launch that there was "no guarantee" the mission would succeed. U.S. astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who along with his mission commander Neil Armstrong were the first two humans to land on the moon, tweeted: Condolences to the Beresheet lander@TeamSpaceIL for what nearly was. Considering it almost pulled off the miraculous feat of soft-landing a craft on the Moon - on such a small budget - there's every reason to believe the next chapter in Israel's space program will be even more exciting.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was watching from the control room near Tel Aviv, said: "If at first you don't succeed, you try again". Indian Space Research Organisation, which nearly lost the race to Beresheet in December last after Chandrayaan-2 project got delayed due to technical problems, can now hope to enter the elite space club of three countries -Russia, US and China- as the launch of its Rs 800cr second moon mission is scheduled in May. That is incorrect; Europe's SMART-1 orbiter took 14 months to reach the moon after its September 2003 launch. The story has been corrected to state that Beresheet's path was longer than any other lander's.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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