Privately Launched Israeli Spacecraft Smashes Into Moon

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The first privately funded mission to the Moon has crashed on the lunar surface after the apparent failure of its main engine.

Peter Diamandis, co-founder and executive chairman of XPRIZE, was at Mission Control in Yahud, Israel, for the landing. After a further series of burns on Wednesday, the craft prepared to begin its landing sequence just after 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, but a series of issues with communications, telemetry and engine function prevented it from successfully landing on the moon.

Beresheet marks the first time the Israelis have attempted to land a craft on the surface of the Moon.

Spacecraft crash more on other planets than they do on the moon, but the moon has had seen failed missions previously, said American University professor Howard McCurdy, who has written several books about space.

Beresheet's landing would have made Israel the fourth country to put a robotic probe on the lunar surface, after Russian Federation, the United States and China.

Only three countries have ever landed a spacecraft on the moon: America, Russia and China. The Beresheet lander ("in the beginning" in Hebrew, so named after an Israel-wide naming competition) was designed and built by SpaceIL from 2011 onwards for the Lunar X-Prize competition, and the project continued when the Lunar X-Prize was ended in 2018 without a victor, or even without an entry flying into space.

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"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. The spacecraft hitched a ride on a SpaceX rocket launched from Florida in February. The spacecraft was in pieces scattered at the landing site, he said. But Beresheet's failure marks the first accidental lunar crash in more than 48 years, following a successful Chinese landing January 3. "We're looking forward to future opportunities to explore the Moon together".

And while the competition ended a year ago after no one was able to meet its deadline (the foundation have subsequently announced they will award the Beresheet collaboration $1m for their achievement), other teams involved are also continuing with their efforts to get to the Moon.

"We are on the moon but not in the way we wanted", one unidentified staffer said.

India hopes to become the next lunar country in the spring with its Chandrayaan-2 mission. "And that caused an unfortunate chain of events we're not sure about", he said, according to the AP report.

"We're taking the lander to market", said Meir Nissim Nir, director of advanced space systems at IAI, during a presentation at Microsymposium 60 lunar exploration workshop last month outside Houston. "I think we can be proud".

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