The world’s most famous astronauts including Buzz Aldrin and Tim Peake have applauded Israel’s privately-funded moon-landing effort, which fell at the final hurdle on Thursday evening just metres from the lunar surface.
Aldrin, an Apollo astronaut who together with Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon, sent his condolences to Israel’s SpaceIL team “for what almost was” after the British-built engines failed to slow the Beresheet craft’s descent.
“Communications were lost with the spacecraft just 150 meters (!!!) above the surface,” Aldrin tweeted. “It couldn’t quite stick the landing. Never lose hope. Your hard work, teamwork and innovation is inspiring to all.”
British astronaut Tim Peake, who finished a six-month stint at the International Space Station in 2016, said it was “disappointing” that Beresheet did not make it safely to the lunar surface “but Team SpaceIL have much to be proud of”.
A successful moon landing would have made Israel only the fourth country to manage the feat, but Doron Opher of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) said the craft “definitely crashed on the surface of the moon”.
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
— Tim Peake (@astro_timpeake) April 11, 2019
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had hoped to celebrate the private $100 million team’s success, suggested there would be a second effort, saying: “If at first you don’t succeed, you try again.”
Billionaire backer Morris Kahn, 89, said: “The journey hasn’t ended. I expect Israel’s next generation to complete the mission for us.” An IAI spokesman said: “The Beresheet effect will lead the children of Israel to dream about Beresheet 2.0.”
The four-legged lander, whose name is Hebrew for Genesis, took off almost two months ago from Cape Canaveral in Florida as part of a “ride share” with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to reduce costs.
PM Netanyahu: "We will try again. We reached the moon but we want to land more softly and this will be on the next attempt.
This very attempt is a tremendous achievement. We will be the fourth country to land on the moon if we persist. " ???????? pic.twitter.com/pO8mTjIZY2
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) April 11, 2019
It entered the lunar orbit last week, and performed several successful manoeuvres by firing the Buckinghamshire-built engine for up to a minute at a time, but the final firing on descent failed, so the craft could not reduce speed to land.
Senior propulsion engineers at the engine manufacturer Nammo Westcott, whose engine powered NASA’s JUNO spacecraft into Jupiter’s orbit in 2016, said their engines had never been used in a Beresheet-type spacecraft before.
A time capsule on board carried a picture of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died on the space shuttle Columbia in 2003, and a disk-based lunar library.