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'We didn't make it': Israel's moon landing attempt fails at last minute

The craft suffered an engine failure when it was preparing to land this evening.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifting off in Florida with the lunar lander Beresheet on board
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifting off in Florida with the lunar lander Beresheet on board
Image: Joe Marino-Bill Cantrell/UPI via PA Images

ISRAEL’S ATTEMPT AT a moon landing has failed at the last-minute due to an engine failure. 

The SpaceIL spacecraft lost contact with Earth this evening, just moments before it was due to land on the moon. 

The craft suffered an engine failure when it was preparing to land and apparently crashed onto the Moon’s surface. 

“We didn’t make it, but we definitely tried,” project originator and major backer Morris Kahn said in a live videocast from mission control near Tel Aviv. 

“The spacecraft Beresheet did not successfully complete its landing on the moon,” an onscreen message said. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Betanyahu said: ”It if first you don’t succeed, try try again.”

The small robotic spacecraft was built by the non-profit SpaceIL and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries. 

Beresheet was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on 22 February with a Falcon 9 rocket from Elon Musk’s private US-based SpaceX company.

The project began as part of the Google Lunar XPrize, which in 2010 offered $30 million (€26.6 million) in awards to encourage scientists and entrepreneurs to come up with relatively low-cost moon missions.

The Google prize expired in March without a winner, however, Israel’s team pledged to push forward.

Asked in December whether the project had so far gone as planned, SpaceIL co-founder Yariv Bash said “hell no”.

“Back when we got started, we thought it was going to be a two-year project, the budget would be less than $10 million, and the spacecraft will weigh less than five kilogrammes,” he said.

“And here we are eight years later with a project with a budget of almost $100 million.”

So far, only Russia, the US and China have made the 384,000-kilometre journey and landed on the Moon.

Includes reporting by Associated Press and © – AFP 2019

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