This week the SpaceIL project to send a spacecraft to the moon suffered a sad ending when the Beresheet craft crashed into the moon’s surface, rendering it inoperable. But the plucky Israeli team is not giving up, and they have announced their plans for Beresheet 2.0.
The craft successfully managed to enter lunar orbit and even snapped a selfie as it began its landing procedure, showing the moon’s surface just 22 kilometers beneath. But as it reached an altitude of 14 kilometers, the problems began. According to a statement from SpaceIL, “a technical glitch in one of Beresheet’s components triggered the chain of events” which led to the crash.
What we do know is that an engine malfunction occurred, although the exact cause hasn’t been announced, and the team at ground control had to restart the main engine. Although the restart was successful, according to the statement “by that time, its velocity was too high to slow down and the landing could not be completed as planned.”
To understand what went wrong, SpaceIL is planning to perform what it describes as “comprehensive tests” on all parts of the craft.
But this isn’t the ending for the SpaceIL project. As Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, said while observing the landing attempt from SpaceIL mission control: “If at first you don’t succeed, you try again.” The primary funder of SpaceIL, entrepreneur Morris Kahn, has announced his intention to provide funding for Beresheet 2.0.
“We’re going to build a new spacecraft, we’re going to put it on the moon, and we’re going to complete the mission,” Kahn said in a statement on Twitter on Saturday. The team is planning to begin work on the new craft immediately, and Space IL welcomed the news with the statement that “The dream goes on!”
The SpaceIL team is experiencing an outpouring of support from both the public and from other space agencies. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine shared his condolences and good wishes after the failed landing, saying in a statement: “We congratulate SpaceIL, the Israel Aerospace Industries, and the state of Israel on the incredible accomplishment of sending the first privately funded mission into lunar orbit. Every attempt to reach new milestones holds opportunities for us to learn, adjust and progress. I have no doubt that Israel and SpaceIL will continue to explore and I look forward to celebrating their future achievements.”