“Well we didn’t make it but we definitely tried,” said Morris Kahn the president of SpaceIL, the company that created the lander which appears to have crash landed on the moon today.
I was watching the live feed of the attempted landing and with about 30 minutes to go they announced they had reached a point of no return. They were going for it. For a while it seemed everything was going well. The spacecraft dropped from about 23,000 meters above the moon to about 15,000 meters. The ship even snapped a selfie on the way down (that’s it above).
And then the room got very quiet. At first, they lost telemetry and the real-time updates of altitude, velocity, etc. stopped updating. Telemetry came back a moment later and then they announced there was a problem with the main engine. They attempted to restart the engine and a minute later it seemed that attempt had succeeded and for a moment it seemed the mission would recover. And then they lost contact. Someone came forward and told the assembled audience they had lost the spacecraft. It was over.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was there watching in the control room along with a few dozen other people. He came forward and said, “If at first you don’t succeed, you try again.” From the NY Times:
If it had succeeded, the robotic lander, named Beresheet, which means “Genesis” or “in the beginning” in Hebrew, would have been the first on the moon by a private organization, and it would have added Israel to just three nations — the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China — to have accomplished that feat.
Beresheet reached the launchpad and was headed to space aboard a SpaceX rocket in February. It orbited the moon, by itself a major accomplishment. That has only been done by five nations — the United States, the former Soviet Union, China, Japan and India — and the European Space Agency. But the landing was the riskiest part of the mission.
This clip shows the last five minutes of the mission. A lot of this is in Hebrew, but there are English updates every minute or so. Even without understanding everything that is said, you can sense the mood in the room as the mission falls apart. They came so close. It’s disappointing but hopefully, as Netanyahu said, they will try again and succeed in a soft landing next time.
Update: Astronaut Buzz Aldrin on today’s disappointment.
Condolences to the Beresheet lander @TeamSpaceIL for what almost was! Communications were lost with the spacecraft just 150 meters (!!!) above the surface, and it couldn't quite stick the landing. Never lose hope – your hard work, teamwork, and innovation is inspiring to all!
— Buzz Aldrin (@TheRealBuzz) April 11, 2019