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"'We didn't make it, but we definitely tried' Israel spacecraft Beresheet crashes during historic moon landing attempt"The Independent1:11
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Israel's SpaceIL almost made history today as its Beresheet spacecraft came within an ace of landing on the surface of the Moon, but suffered a last minute failure during descent. Israel missed out on the chance to be the fourth country to make a controlled lunar
Beresheet ("Genesis") launched in February as
Everything was working fine up until the final moments, as is often the case in space. The craft, having made it perfectly to its intended point of descent, determined that all systems were ready and the landing process would go ahead as planned.
They lost telemetry for a bit, and had to reset the craft to get the main engine back online... and then communication dropped while only a handful of kilometers from the surface. The "selfie" image above was taken just a few minutes before they lost communication. The spacecraft was announced as lost shortly
Related slideshow: How space missions have captured the far side of the moon, from the USSR to Israel (Quartz)
Clearly disappointed but also exhilarated, the team quickly recovered its composure, saying "the achievement of getting to where we got is tremendous and we can be proud," and of course, "if at first you don't succeed... try, try again."
The project began as an attempt to claim the Google Lunar Xprize, announced more than a decade ago, but which proved too difficult for teams to attempt in the timeframe specified. Although the challenge and its prize money lapsed, Israel's SpaceIL team continued its work, bolstered by the support of Israel Aerospace Industries, the state-owned aviation concern there.
It's worth noting that Beresheet did enjoy considerable government support in this way, it's a far cry from any other large-scale government-run mission, and can safely be considered "private" for all intents and purposes. The ~50-person team and $200 million budget are laughably small compared to practically any serious mission, let alone a lunar landing.
I spoke with Xprize's Founder and CEO, Peter Diamandis and Anousheh Ansari respectively, just before the landing attempt. Both were extremely excited and made it clear that the mission was already considered a huge success
"What I'm seeing here is
He's not the only one. Ansari, who funded the famous spaceflight Xprize that bore her name, and who has herself visited space as one of the first tourist-astronauts above the International Space Station, felt a similar vibe.
"It's an amazing moment, bringing so many great memories up," she told me. "It reminds me of when we were all out in the Mojave waiting for the launch of Spaceship One."
Ansari emphasized the feeling the landing evoked of moving forward as a people.
"Imagine, over the last 50 years only 500 people out of seven billion have been to space — that number will be thousands soon," she said. "We believe there's so much more that can be done in this area of technology, a lot of real business opportunities that benefit civilization but also humanity."
It's only icing on the cake that this landing should occur on the same day as SpaceX's (delayed, and assuming they don't postpone again) Falcon Heavy launch, which is another huge step forward for private spaceflight and access to orbit and beyond.
Congratulations to the SpaceIL team for their achievement, and here's hoping the next attempt makes it all the way down.