THE first privately funded mission to the Moon has crashed on the lunar surface after the apparent failure of its main engine.
The Israeli spacecraft Beresheet reached the moon on but its planned controlled, or “soft”, landing was unsuccessful, the support team said.
AFP or licensors The Israeli probe was the first privately funded Moon mission
It had a number of technical problems during its final descent to the lunar surface in the Sea of Serenity.
The spacecraft lost communication with Earth just moments before it was to touch down as members of the support team and guests watched nervously.
Doron Opher, general manager of the space division of Israel Aerospace Industries, said the craft “definitely crashed on the surface of the moon”.
“If at first you don’t succeed, try try again,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was on hand for what organisers had hoped to be a celebration.
The four-legged probe is the size of a washing machine and was the result of a collaboration between SpaceIL, a privately funded Israeli non-profit organisation, and Israel Aerospace Industries.
Beresheet is Hebrew for the biblical phrase In the beginning and it was launched on February 22 from Cape Canaveral on Elon Musk’s Space X rocket.
It had travelled through space for seven weeks in a series of expanding orbits around Earth before crossing into the moon’s gravity last week.
Though the distance to the Moon is 240,000 miles but Beresheet travelled more than 15 times that distance.
The final manoeuvre on Wednesday brought it into a tight elliptical orbit around the moon, 9-10.5 miles from the surface at its closest.
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A time capsule was on board the lander – which included a picture of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died on the space shuttle Columbia in 2003 .
There was also a lunar library containing 30 million pages on a disk from the US-based Arch Mission Foundation.
So far, only three nations have succeeded in carrying out a “soft” landing on the lunar surface: the United States, the Soviet Union and China.
Reuters An on-looker outside the control room watches anxiously as he watches the probe’s descent
AFP or licensors Beresheet was attempting to land on the Moon but crashed on the surface
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