Israel's Beresheet moon lander craft failed to make a soft landing and crashed on the Moon

Israelis never give up and are true to their words. Just 2 days after the country’s first moon mission Beresheet failed to land on the lunar surface and their PM Benjamin Netanyahu vowing that “if at first you don’t succeed, you try again and we’ll try again”, the Israeli aerospace company SpaceIL, which funded and operated the first lunar mission, on Saturday announced the second moon programme. 

SpaceIL president and billionaire Morris Kahn announced, “I have had time to think, over the weekend, about what happened, and given all of the encouragement I got, and the support from people all over the world I have come tonight to announce a new project — Beresheet 2... We began something that we shall complete, and we will place our flag on the moon.”

The lunarcraft Beresheet, built by SpaceIL and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), had a successful entry into the lunar orbit on April 4 after a month and a half in transit from the earth but just minutes before the touchdown on the moon’s surface last Friday, the craft developed a technical snag and crashlanded on the moon. Had Beresheet landed successfully on the lunar surface, it would have become the first successful private mission to the moon and would have made Israel the fourth country in the world after Russia, US and China to have landed on the moon. 

The mission cost about $100 million, most of it raised from private donors like Kahn and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Kahn said that Israeli government participation amounted to $3 million. 

Private donors were already pledging funds for the new project, Kahn said, but he added that money should come from the public for “a project of the people of Israel”. In a statement, IAI said that it would be happy to be part of further space missions in partnership with SpaceIL.

The story of Beresheet, which means ‘genesis’ or ‘in the beginning’ in Hebrew, began in 2011, when SpaceIL was founded with the objective of “taking Israel to the moon”. The organisation aimed to win in the $20 million Google Lunar X Prize by becoming the first private robotic craft to set down on the moon, but unfortunately the deadline passed last year and it had to push on even without the monetary incentive. Later, it was funded by philanthropists and aided by Israeli startups. 

Barely the size of a washing machine, the humble Beresheet, which is among the smallest spacecraft to target moon-landing, was supposed to touch down on a plain of solidified lava, known as the Sea of Serenity. Had Beresheet with 75% fuel weight landed successfully on the moon, it would have spent a few days on the lunar surface, studied the moon’s magnetic field and sent back photos and data to the earth. The craft carried an instrument known as the SpaceIL Magnometer (SILMAG), which would have measured magnetism of moon rocks and help to answer how it developed a magnetic field in the first place.