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Israeli lunar probe crashes
The probe's final selfie. © SpaceIL

Israeli lunar probe crashes

Israel is not (yet) the fourth nation to achieve a controlled landing on the Moon, but plans are already being made for a follow-on mission.

Launched on 22nd February, Israel's Bereshit lunar probe — launched by a partnership between nonprofit SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) — finally crashed into the Sea of Serenity on 11th April at around 19:25 UTC. Contact was lost 150m above the moon's surface, after mission controllers reported an engine problem and while telemetry indicated that the vehicle was travelling too fast and too low.

Despite this outcome, the Bereshit mission until the failed landing was "a tremendous success", according to Opher Doron, Director General of the Space Division of IAI. In addition to the congratulations of NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, who pointed out that this was “the first privately funded mission in lunar orbit”, SpaceIL teams received a message from lunar astronaut Buzz Aldrin: “Never lose hope — your hard work, teamwork and innovation is inspiring to all.”

The XPrize Foundation, the organiser of the Google Lunar X Prize competition in 2007 and 2018 that inspired the launch of the Bereshit project, announced an exceptional donation of $1m to SpaceIL through a prize called the Moonshot Award, so that the team could continue its work and start building a new probe.

The total cost of the Bereshit project, including launch, is estimated to have been less than $100m, making it without doubt the cheapest-ever lunar mission.

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