An Israeli ship crashed into the moon moments before landing, failing in an ambitious attempt to make history as the first moon landing funded with private funds.
About 20 minutes before the landing scheduled for Thursday, the engine shots slowed the descent of Beresheet. The engineers watched in silence as the ship, its movements transmitted live on dozens of screens, gliding toward a free fall.
The ship lost communication with the ground control during its final descent. Moments later, the mission was declared a failure.
"We definitely crashed on the surface of the moon," said Opher Doron of Israel Aerospace Industries.
He said the spacecraft's engine died out shortly before landing, and scientists were still trying to figure out the cause. The ship was in scattered pieces at the landing site, he said.
Beresheet, whose name is Hebrew for the biblical phrase & # 39; In the beginning & # 39 ;, had traveled through space for seven weeks in a series of expanding orbits around the Earth before crossing to the gravity of the moon the week pbad.
|The control room in Yahud on April 11 before the accident. [Space IL/Handout via Reuters]|
However, Doron called the mission an "amazing success" to reach the moon and be so close to landing successfully.
The incident occurred in front of a crowded audience that included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and was broadcast live on national television.
"We will try again," said Netanyahu. "We get to the moon, but we want to land more comfortably, and that's for the next time."
The failure was a disappointing end to a lunar journey of 6.5 million kilometers, almost unprecedented in length, which was designed to save fuel and reduce the price. The spacecraft was hooked on a SpaceX rocket launched from Florida in February.
"What makes conditions difficult is that the geological and atmospheric conditions are different on the moon and planets than on Earth," said American University professor Howard McCurdy, who has written several books on space.
"It makes it very difficult to prove" the landing of the ship on Earth, he added.