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As we reported back in February, Israel had sent a lunar lander up with a SpaceX launch with the intention of landing on the moon. Today, SpaceIL's unmanned craft Beresheet crashed during a live feed of the descent on Thursday and was deemed a total loss.
The mission was initially a grab for Google’s $20 million Lunar Xprize. However, when the space voyaging startup could not meet the deadline, losing the prize, it decided to continue on anyway. Google promised to give the private agency $1 million for a successful landing as a consolation prize.
During Beresheet’s descent, controllers lost communication with the craft. The lander presumably smashed into the moon’s surface likely destroying its instrumentation that was to be used during the mission.
The craft’s directives were to measure the moon’s magnetosphere and to set up retroreflectors that NASA was going to use to measure the precise distance to the moon using a laser.
Despite the loss, Israel Aerospace Industry’s division head Opher Doron seemed upbeat about the incident.
“We had a failure in the spacecraft,” said Doron who was participating in the live stream of the landing. “We, unfortunately, have not managed to land successfully. We are the seventh country to orbit the Moon, and the fourth to reach the Moon’s surface. It’s a tremendous achievement up until now.”
While communications were severed before the craft could touch down, it was able to send back a couple of pictures including a selfie as it approached the lunar surface (masthead image). Israeli Envoy Elad Ratson tweeted what was to be the last photo Beresheet sent home (above).
That s not the end for SpaceIL. The startup said that might try again, but gave no specifics. Google also decided to give the non-profit the $1 million despite the failure.
Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu mirrored that attitude saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, you try again. We will try again.”