Apr 18, 2019 | Updated: 11:44 AM EDT

Israel’s Beresheet Spacecraft Crashes Prior to Historic Lunar Landing

Apr 12, 2019 07:58 AM EDT

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To the dismay of many, Israel's initial attempt at a lunar landing has ended in wreckage. The mission could have marked a monumental space exploration milestone as the first privately funded lunar landing. However, roughly 20 minutes into the landing procedures the spacecraft lost communication with ground control and the mission was declared a failure.

"We definitely crashed on the surface of the moon," said Opher Doron of Israel Aerospace Industries. "The spacecraft's engine turned off shortly before landing, and we are still trying to figure out the cause. The spacecraft was in pieces, scattered at the landing site," he said.

The crash of spacecraft Beresheet, which means "Genesis" in Hebrew or "the beginning", was an unfortunate and abrupt end to a seven-week mission by the spacecraft which clocked around 6.5 million kilometers traveled--an unprecedented voyage in terms of length and distance. Doron, however, called the mission an "amazing success" as they had come so close to actually landing on the lunar surface.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in attendance and eagerly watched as the mishap unfolded. He made this statement: "We will try again, we reached the moon, but next time we want to land more comfortably."

The Israeli government said in a tweet. "Beresheet came the closest Israel ever has to land on the moon, but unfortunately the landing was not completed successfully. We applaud @TeamSpaceIL for a tremendous scientific achievement, they made history by making Israel one of seven nations who had ever orbited the moon," 

The unmanned spacecraft would have put Israel amidst an exclusive club of space-exploring nations. Only three countries--the US, the Soviet Union, and China--have made successful 'soft landings' on the lunar surface. Israel, however, is one of just seven countries to have orbited the Moon, thanks to the Beresheet mission.

"What makes it hard is the conditions. The geological and atmospheric conditions are different on the moon and other planets than they are on Earth," said American University professor Howard McCurdy, who has authored several books on space. "It makes it really hard to test the spacecraft's landing back on Earth," he added.

In addition to its scientific mission, Beresheet was to properly deliver a time capsule to the moon. Consisting of three disks, the time capsule data includes symbols such as the Israeli flag and the country's national anthem, dictionaries in 27 languages are also on the disks, along with the Bible and a children's book inspired by the mission.

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