Israeli scientists’ attempt at the first private moon landing failed because of a glitch that caused a high-speed crash into the lunar surface

One of the last photos transmitted by Beresheet, the first private mission to attempt a moon landing. The spacecraft was designed and built by the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL.

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One of the last photos transmitted by Beresheet, the first private mission to attempt a moon landing. The spacecraft was designed and built by the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL.
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SpaceIL/IAI via YouTube

  • On April 11, Beresheet – the four-legged spacecraft from Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL’s private moon mission – crashed into the moon’s surface.
  • In a press release, SpaceIL reported that a technical glitch in one of Beresheet’s components caused the spacecraft’s main engine to malfunction.
  • This malfunction made it impossible for the engine to slow Beresheet’s velocity sufficiently to prevent it from crashing into the lunar surface.
  • On April 13, SpaceIL’s chairman announced the establishment of Beresheet 2, and confirmed that the company will build and launch a second spacecraft.
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In February, SpaceX launched Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL’s 1,300-pound robot, known as Beresheet, into space. But the world’s first private moon mission ended in failure on April 11 when the dishwasher-sized robot smacked down into the lunar surface.

Beresheet – a biblical reference that means “in the beginning” – transmitted one final photo from about 14 miles above the lunar surface, shown above, before its failure.

The live broadcast of the event reported that Beresheet’s main engine failed during its descent toward the moon. By the time mission controllers rebooted the spacecraft to try and restart the engine, it was too late.

Read More: Israel’s first mission to the moon fails at the last minute, crashes into the lunar surface

A press release from SpaceIL confirmed those reports, stating that a technical glitch in one of Beresheet’s components caused the spacecraft’s main engine to malfunction.

An ill-timed technical glitch prevented Beresheet from slowing down during its descent

Preliminary data collected by SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)’s engineering teams suggested that this technical glitch triggered a chain of events that briefly crippled the spacecraft’s main engine. “Without the main engine working properly, it was impossible to stop Beresheet’s velocity,” the press released stated.

While the robot was able to overcome the malfunction by restarting the engine, by the time all systems were back online, Beresheet’s velocity was too high for it to slow down sufficiently before impacting the moon.

The first technical issue occurred a little less than 9 miles above the moon. When SpaceIL and IAI teams finally lost contact with the spacecraft 492 feet from the lunar surface, Beresheet was still vertically descending at speeds upwards of 310 miles per hour on its collision course with the ground.

The

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The “Beresheet” lunar robot designed and built by SpaceIL.
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SpaceIL

The Israeli engineering teams will continue running tests to get more details about what went wrong.

Had the mission – backed by about $100 million in private funding – been successful, it would have made Israel the fourth nation ever to have a spacecraft survive a lunar-landing attempt.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was present at the launch following his re-election, commented on the failure from the mission’s control center in Yehud, Israel.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try again,” Netanyahu said.

Beresheet is getting a new lease on live

On April 13, just two days after their craft’s fateful crash, Israeli nonprofit Space IL announced plans to build and launch a second spacecraft called Beresheet 2.

Company chairman Morris Kahn said he plans to form a new group of donors to support Beresheet 2, and has appointed a new team to work on, starting immediately.

Kahn echoed the Israeli prime minster’s April 11th sentiments.

“This is part of my message to the younger generation: Even if you do not succeed, you get up again and try,” Kahn said in a press release.