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May 14, 2019,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Space: Israel’s Beresheet moon lander crash-lands

Israel’s Beresheet moon lander, the first to be developed by a private organisation, is believed to have crashed in attempting to land on the moon on Thursday 11 April. Undeterred, Morris Kahn, the billionaire president of Space IL – the organisation that led the mission – has announced that he is determined to give it another go.

 

Israel’s maiden attempt at a lunar landing came unstuck at the very last minute, when its moon lander – developed by non-profit organisation Space IL – suffered an engine failure and is feared to have crashed on the moon’s surface.

“We didn’t make it, but we definitely tried” said the businessman and philanthropist Morris Kahn, the main backer of the 100 million dollar project, speaking at the mission’s control centre near Tel Aviv. “And I think the achievement of getting to where we got is really tremendous. I think we can be proud.”

 

A second attempt

 

The members of the mission team explained that the engines designed to slow the lander down on its descent and enable a gentle landing broke down and that contact with the lander had been lost. “If at first you don’t succeed, you try again,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the control room.

Named Beresheet, which is Hebrew for “Genesis”, the 585kg lander, which resembles a large five-legged spider, was a source of great pride in Israel, which had hoped to become the fourth nation to land on the moon after the USA, Russia and China.

The lander was developed by SpaceIL in partnership with Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI), one of the country’s largest defence firms. Khan, the president of SpaceIL, contributed around 40 million dollars to the mission’s budget.

 

Time capsule 

 

The moon lander launched on 22 February from Cape Canaveral in Florida on a Space X Falcon 9 rocket. Prior to its failed landing, it covered 6.5 million kilometres at a speed of 10 kilometres/second (36,000 km/h), according to the project’s partners.

The lander was carrying a time capsule containing digital discs etched with children’s drawings, songs, images of Israeli icons, the memoirs of a Holocaust survivor, and the Torah.

 

A momentous achievement

 

“It’s a great step for Israel and a great step for Israeli technology,” said Netanyahu at the launch. “We are giants.”

The project began with the Google Lunar XPrize in 2010, which offered 30 million dollars to the first private craft to land on the moon before March 2018. Though the prize would go unclaimed, the Israeli team continued with their plans and bought a place on the SpaceX rocket.

Though the original estimate was 10 million dollars, the mission ultimately cost ten times that figure. “It is the cheapest craft ever to attempt such a mission,” stated IAI.

Almost 50 years after man first set foot on the moon, the Earth’s satellite is the subject of renewed interest. China landed a craft on the dark and hitherto unexplored side of the moon in January, while India is hoping that its Chandrayaan-2 mission, which comprises a lunar space craft and a mobile robot, will this spring make it the fifth nation to land on the moon. For its part, Japan is planning to send a small landing craft called SLIM to study a volcanic area on the moon in 2020-2021. 

 

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