Israel’s pioneering spacecraft, Beresheet, made it to the moon Thursday, but not the way Israelis had hoped.
Beresheet crashed onto the lunar surface during final landing maneuvers after its main engine broke down and it lost contact with mission control just 500 feet away from the surface, according to news reports.
"We had a failure in the spacecraft. We unfortunately have not managed to land successfully," Opher Doron, the general manager of Israel Aerospace Industries, said during a live broadcast from mission control.
"It's a tremendous achievement up till now," he said.
The spacecraft marks the first time a privately funded lunar lander made it to Earth’s closest neighbor, despite the failure of the mission overall.
The nonprofit SpaceIL and government-owned IAI collaborated on building the small robotic spacecraft, which caught a ride on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket into Earth orbit in late February, then spent six weeks slowly traveling to the moon, slipping into lunar orbit on April 4.
Space.com reported that Beresheet’s true mission was to prove it could do it and “make a case for Israel’s engineering capabilities, rather than to tackle any science questions.”
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” newly reelected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the crash, according to The Associated Press.
Netanyahu was on hand for what scientists had hoped would be a national celebration.
Despite the failure of the mission, Israel is still the fourth nation to make it to the moon, behind the United States, the former Soviet Union and China.
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