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Israeli Spacecraft Crashes Before it Could Land on Moon

The incident occurred in front of a packed audience that included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and was broadcast live on national television

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People watch a screen showing explanations of the planned landing of Israeli spacecraft Beresheet at the Planetaya Planetarium in the Israeli city of Netanya, April 11, 2019, before it crashed during the landing. VOA

An Israeli spacecraft lost contact with Earth moments before it was to land on the moon and crashed late Thursday, failing in an ambitious attempt to make history as the first privately funded lunar mission.

The spacecraft lost communication with ground control as it was making its final descent to the moon. Moments later, the mission was declared a failure.

“We definitely crashed on surface of moon,” said Opher Doron, general manager of the space division of Israel Aerospace Industries. He said the spacecraft was in pieces scattered at the planned landing site.

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An image of the lunar surface taken by Israeli spacecraft Beresheet, obtained by Reuters from Space IL on April 11, 2019. VOA

Engine shut down

Doron said that the spacecraft’s engine turned off shortly before landing. By the time power was restored, he said the craft was moving too fast to land safely. Scientists were still trying to figure out the cause of the failure.

“One of the inertial measurement units failed. And that caused an unfortunate chain of events we’re not sure about,” he said. “The engine was turned off. The engine was stopped and the spacecraft crashed. That’s all we know.”

The incident occurred in front of a packed audience that included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and was broadcast live on national television.

The small robotic spacecraft, built by the nonprofit SpaceIL and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, had hoped to match a feat that has been achieved only by the national space agencies of three countries: the U.S., Russia and China.

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The spacecraft lost communication with ground control as it was making its final descent to the moon. Moments later, the mission was declared a failure. VOA

“If at first you don’t succeed, try try again,” Netanyahu said. He vowed to put an Israeli spacecraft on the moon “intact” in the next two years.

Scientists, who were giddy with excitement only seconds earlier, were visibly distraught, and celebrations at viewing centers across the country were dashed.

President Reuven Rivlin hosted dozens of youngsters at his official residence. The children, some wearing white spacesuits, appeared confused as the crash unfolded.

“We are full of admiration for the wonderful people who brought the spacecraft to the moon,” Rivlin said. “True, not as we had hoped, but we will succeed in the end.”

Launched in February

The failure was a disappointing ending to a 6.5 million-kilometer (4 million-mile) lunar voyage, almost unprecedented in length, that was designed to conserve fuel and reduce price.

israeli, moon mission, crash
“If at first you don’t succeed, try try again,” Netanyahu said. He vowed to put an Israeli spacecraft on the moon “intact” in the next two years. VOA

The spacecraft hitched a ride on the SpaceX Falcon rocket, launched from Florida in February. For the past two months, Beresheet traveled around the Earth several times before entering lunar orbit.

The U.S. space agency NASA broadcast the landing attempt live on its dedicated TV channels, as well as online.

ALSO READ: NASA’s Spacecraft Observes Water Molecules Movement on Moon

“While NASA regrets the end of the SpaceIL mission without a successful lunar landing of the Beresheet lander, 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,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

“Every attempt to reach new milestones holds opportunities for us to learn, adjust and progress,” he added. “I have no doubt that Israel and SpaceIL will continue to explore, and I look forward to celebrating their future achievements.” (VOA)

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NASA: Sending Back Astronauts to Moon in 2024 Could Cost About $30 Billion

The entire project will be framed as a practice run for a future mission to Mars

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Cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague would continue their stay aboard the orbiting lab. VOA

Returning astronauts to the moon in 2024 could cost about $30 billion, or roughly the same price tag as the Apollo 11 spaceflight when factoring in inflation, NASA has said.

“For the whole programme, to get a sustainable presence on the moon, we’re looking at between $20 and $30 billion,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a TV interview on Friday, though noting that that figure does not include money already spent on the rocket and space capsule the agency plans to use for the programme, Efe news reported.

The total cost of the Apollo programme that the US launched in 1961 and concluded in 1972 was $25 billion. The climax of that programme came nearly 50 years ago when two astronauts landed on the moon as part of the Apollo 11 mission, which cost $6 billion at the time, equivalent to $30 billion today.

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Then one male astronaut and – for the first time – a female astronaut would set foot on the lunar surface in 2024. Pixabay

NASA, which has dubbed its current lunar programme Artemis (after Apollo’s twin sister, the Greek goddess of the hunt, the wilderness and the moon), plans to send one male and one female astronaut to the moon in 2024.

Bridenstine recalled that the main difference between the Apollo programme and the Artemis program is that the former culminated with brief stays on the moon while the latter will entail a permanent human presence there.

The plan will involve the recruitment of private companies and international partners, the construction of a lunar space station and manned landings at the moon’s south pole within five years.

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That rocket will send into orbit a new spacecraft known as Orion, whose lead contractor is Lockheed Martin. VOA

The entire project will be framed as a practice run for a future mission to Mars. The programme includes an unmanned mission around the moon in 2020 and a manned mission that also will orbit the moon two years later. Then one male astronaut and – for the first time – a female astronaut would set foot on the lunar surface in 2024.

ALSO READ: NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover, Latest Robotic Mission to Explore Ancient Life on Red Planet

The three lunar missions will be delivered into space by the Space Launch System, a rocket being developed by NASA and Boeing that will be the largest ever built once it is fully assembled. That rocket will send into orbit a new spacecraft known as Orion, whose lead contractor is Lockheed Martin.

Besides these missions exclusively handled by NASA, five other launches will be carried out to place in lunar orbit the components for construction of the Gateway mini-space station, which will serve as a staging post for moon landings. Those five missions between 2022 and 2024 will be operated by private companies, according to NASA’s plans. (IANS)