A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Israel's first spacecraft created to land on the moon lifts off on the first privately-funded lunar mission at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 21, 2019.
Beresheet's rocket engine executed a series of maneuvers to stretch out its elliptical orbit around Earth, and last week the spacecraft made the transition from Earth orbit to lunar orbit. The company is making "small modifications" to the lander design, he said, to allow it to accommodate 30 to 60 kilograms of scientific payloads, depending on whether the spacecraft is launched directly to the moon or placed into a transfer orbit like Beresheet. It was built by Israeli nonprofit space venture SpaceIL and state-owned defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries with $100 million furnished nearly entirely by private donors.
It was hard to tell what failure led to the loss of the lander during the live stream, but there appeared to be an issue with the spacecraft's main engine. "It's the size of a dining table".
Spacecraft crash more on other planets than they do on the moon, but the moon has had seen failed missions previously, said American University professor Howard McCurdy, who has written several books about space. "And instead of building a satellite, we built a spacecraft".
Beresheet's slow-and-steady strategy paid off on April 4, when the moon's gravity captured the lander.
The spacecraft's engine had turned off shortly before landing. However, when the space voyaging startup could not meet the deadline, losing the prize, it chose to continue on anyway.
"The second I heard their dream, I wanted to support it", said Kahn. "I think we can be proud".
He went on: "Right now I'm feeling a combination of all emotions: super-excited, nervous to see what's going to happen, and exhausted after a long, long journey".
People watch the live broadcast of the SpaceIL spacecraft as it lost contact with Earth in Netanya, Israel. "Hopefully, when the landing is successful, we'll have so much joy in our veins that the challenges and problems we've had to overcome will look different".
Peter Diamandis, co-founder and executive chairman of XPRIZE, was at Mission Control in Yahud, Israel, for the landing. But in that time, the team hopes to gain some valuable insights. "And that caused an unfortunate chain of events we're not sure about", Mr Doron said. The actual building of the spacecraft from full-scale development took just four years.
The SpaceIL nonprofit group was able to keep going even as other teams began to drop out of the competition, and as the original deadline to win the X-Prize was extended. Thank you for inspiring us @TeamSpaceIL. "We need to praise what we accomplished". The spacecraft dropped from about 23,000 meters above the moon to about 15,000 meters.
US President Donald Trump's administration announced in March it was speeding up plans to send American astronauts back to the moon, bringing forward the target date from 2028 to 2024.