Israel Poised to Join Cosmic Powers with Lunar Landing


"It's one of our most successful prizes", said Anousheh Ansari, chief executive of the X Prize Foundation, in a phone interview shortly before the landing attempt. By the time mission controllers rebooted the spacecraft to try and restart the engine, according to a live broadcast of the event, it was too late.

On Wednesday, the lander made a manoeuvre to lower its altitude for a lunar orbit of between nine and 124 miles while preparing for the landing.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was on hand for what organisers had hoped to be a celebration, was pragmatic about the disappointing end to the mission.

If the landing had been achieved, Israel would have become the fourth country to ever land a spacecraft on the moon.

"Don't stop believing! We came close but unfortunately didn't succeed with the landing process", tweeted SpaceIL.

Israel's first moon lander came up just short in its historic touchdown bid this afternoon (April 11). The craft is assumed to have crashed into the lunar surface. Radio signals from the spacecraft, the size of a washing machine, abruptly cut off, and nervous chatter erupted in the control room.

The lander is equipped with a single British-built LEROS 2b engine fueled by MMH (monomethylhydrazine) and Monday (mixed oxides of nitrogen) for major maneuvers and the landing itself, along with small thrusters at the bottom of the craft. The children, some wearing white and blue spacesuits, appeared confused as the crash unfolded.

US President Donald Trump´s administration announced in March it was speeding up plans to send American astronauts back to the moon, bringing forward the target date from 2028 to 2024. If we succeeded every time, there would be no reward.

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The failure was a disappointing ending to a 6.5-million kilometre voyage, nearly unprecedented in length, that was created to conserve fuel and reduce the price of lunar voyages.

But the Beresheet mission, which launched on 22 February from Cape Canaveral in Florida, spent weeks reaching its destination.

Named Beresheet, the Hebrew word for genesis, the four-legged craft had meant to measure magnetic fields from its landing site on a lunar plain called Mare Serenitatis, the Sea of Serenity.

Mr Ramon's widow, Rona, who was a big supporter of Beresheet, died of cancer in December.

"While NASA regrets the end of the SpaceIL mission without a successful lunar landing of the Beresheet lander, we congratulate SpaceIL, the Israel Aerospace Industries and the state of Israel on the incredible accomplishment of sending the first privately funded mission into lunar orbit", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was quoted in the AP report. It was a disappointment for the program and a setback for the private Israeli company's efforts to join the small community of organizations that have successfully landed on Earth's nearest neighbor. "That's all we know". The SpaceIL team was helped by multiple donations from the Israeli Space Agency as well as a donation from billionaire Sheldon Adelson in 2014. "I think we can be proud".

The unmanned spacecraft would have taken Israel into an exclusive club of space-exploring nations.

SpaceIL and IAI have urged people to organize more private watch-parties and tag #Israeltothemoon on social media where fans and followers have been posting photos of their preparations for the lunar landing. "We are the seventh country to make it all the way to the moon".

"What makes it hard is the conditions".