Israel's Beresheet moon mission fails to stick lunar landing

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The Israeli Beresheet spacecraft has crashed into the Moon.

If it had been successful, it would have put Israel in elite company, and made them only the fourth country to have a soft landing on the Moon, joining the USA, China, and the former Soviet Union.

Only the United States, Russia (U.S.S.R.) and China have accomplished the feat, and the SpaceIL mission will also be the first privately-funded Moon landing in history.

The governmental Israel Aerospace Industries played an important role in the mission, but it was designed and driven forward by SpaceIL.

The unmanned Beresheet lander would have been the smallest spacecraft to ever land on the Moon. It blasted off from Cape Canaveral in the United States on February 21 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and entered Earth's orbit about 34 minutes after launch.

"If at first you don't succeed, you try again", said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who watched Beresheet's landing attempt from SpaceIL's control center in Yehud, Israel. But with the original prize money off the table, mission managers don't want to risk Beresheet with any additional maneuvers once it lands. The $100 million USA project was furnished nearly entirely by private donors. The craft had began preparing for landing on the moon's rocky surface Wednesday.

It's been a number of weeks since Israel launched a privately-funded mission orbit and then land on Earth's Moon.

Kahn, a South African-born Israeli billionaire, said that he hoped the initiative would contribute significantly to future space exploration. Dictionaries in 27 languages are also on the disks, along with the Bible and a children's book inspired by the mission.

Genesis got its start in 2010 when three young Israeli engineers - Yonatan Winetraub, Yariv Bash and Kfir Damari - registered for the Google Lunar X Prize competition. The $30 million competition was scrapped with no victor previous year after the organizers said none of the five finalists would make the March 31, 2018 deadline for a Moon launch, reports.

The competition ended previous year without a victor, but SpaceIL and partner Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the country's biggest aerospace and defense company, continued working on the 5-foot-tall (1.5 meters) Beresheet. Israel's only astronaut, Ilan Ramon, was among the seven-member crew of the space shuttle Columbia when it disintegrated upon reentry into the Earth's atmosphere in 2003.

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