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Israeli Team Evaluates the Reason Behind the Crash of Spacecraft

The main engine managed to restart soon after, but it was too late: the lander was on a collision course with the moon at 500 kilometers (310.7 miles) per hour

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Team members of the Israel spacecraft, Beresheet, are seen in the control room in Yahud, Israel, April 11, 2019. VOA

The team behind the Israeli spacecraft that crashed into the moon moments before touchdown was working Friday to try and piece together what derailed the ambitious mission, which sought to make history as the first privately funded lunar landing.

SpaceIL, the start-up that worked for over eight years to get the spacecraft off the ground, revealed that a technical glitch triggered a “chain of events” that caused the spacecraft’s engine to malfunction Thursday just 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) above the moon, making it “impossible to stop the spacecraft’s velocity.”

The main engine managed to restart soon after, but it was too late: the lander was on a collision course with the moon at 500 kilometers (310.7 miles) per hour. Radio signals from the spacecraft flat-lined as the scheduled touchdown time came and went, leading engineers to assume that the small spacecraft was scattered in pieces after slamming into the landing site.

The crew said it would conduct comprehensive tests next week to better understand what happened.

Had the mission succeeded, it would have made Israel the fourth nation to pull off a lunar landing — a feat only accomplished by the national space agencies of the U.S., Russia and China.

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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

The failure was a disappointing end to a lunar voyage of 6.5 million kilometers (4 million miles), almost unprecedented in length and designed to conserve fuel and reduce price. The spacecraft hitched a ride on a SpaceX rocket launched from Florida in February.

For the past two months, the lander, dubbed Beresheet, Hebrew for “In the Beginning,” traveled around the Earth several times before entering lunar orbit — a first for a privately funded lander. Israel can count itself among seven nations that have successfully orbited the moon.

Although the crash dashed the hopes of engineers and enthusiasts around the world that had been rooting for the scrappy spacecraft’s safe arrival, the team emphasized that the mission was still a success for reaching the moon and coming so close to landing successfully.

Beresheet was about the size of a washing machine. It cost $100 million — more than the entrepreneurs had hoped to spend, but far less than a government-funded spacecraft.

ALSO READ: Israeli Spacecraft Crashes Before it Could Land on Moon

After getting its start in the Google Lunar XPrize Competition, which ultimately ended last year without a winner, Beresheet’s lunar voyage gained momentum over the years, coming to be seen as test of Israel’s technological prowess and potential key to global respect.

“Israel made it to the moon, and Beresheet’s journey hasn’t ended,” said Israeli billionaire Morris Kahn, one of the project’s major sponsors. “I expect Israel’s next generation to complete the mission for us.” (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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The five missions between 2022 and 2024 will be operated by private companies, according to NASA's plans. 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)