The Beresheet spacecraft of SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) failed to make its planned soft landing on the Moon this evening, after a 49 day voyage.
In the first stage of the landing, the spacecraft, which was in lunar orbit, aimed itself at the Moon and carried out checks using sensors to make certain that it could land. The result of the checks was positive, and the spacecraft began an irreversible process of landing, in which its main engine fired.
In the course of the landing a problem was identified in the main engine. After a few minutes it started to work again, but Opher Doron, IAI’s Space Division General Manager said “Our situation is unclear.” Shortly afterwards communication with the satellite was lost.
The message from the control room was “All the signs are that we will not be the fourth country in the world that lands on the Moon, but we recorded a huge achievement. We reached the Moon, but apparently not in the way we wanted.”
SpaceIL chairman Morris Kahn, who invested most of the $100 million that the Beresheet project cost, said, “SpaceIL’s achievement is amazing, even though we did not succeed in the final landing. That’s what happens in space. And it seems that there is already a desire to produce another spacecraft with which we will succeed. I am grateful to all the workers and volunteers, and do not regret for a moment that we tried. We have something to be proud of.”
“At first sight, it seems that a fault in the spacecraft’s acceleration gauges led to a chain of events that turned off the engine,” Opher Doron said. “There’s great pain alongside immense pride at a huge achievement by any standard. We almost succeeded to the end, and I hope that there will soon be an opportunity to try again, and we’ll study the problems and fix them. An immense achievement with a slightly bitter taste at the end.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was present in the control room, said, “If you don’t succeed, you try again. We’d like to land more gently. The very attempt is a massive achievement. If we persist, we will become the fourth country to land on the Moon.” Netanyahu even asked the SpaceIL team how long it would take to build a second spacecraft.
President Reuven Rivlin said at a special viewing event for the Moon landing with children at his official residence, “The disappointments are small compared with the mighty achievements. I am proud to be here this evening with so many children who saw the achievement. This is an important night for the citizens of Israel and for Israeli children who have seen what we can do.”
Beresheet (the name means ‘In the beginning’) was launched from Cape Canaveral on a SpaceX launcher on February 22. SpaceIL was founded in 2010 by Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub in response to a competition sponsored by Google to become the first private company to make a Moon landing. The competition ended without a winner, but the SpaceIL founders decided to continue as an educational and scientific project.
Published by Globes, Israel business news – en.globes.co.il – on April 11, 2019
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