Israel’s eight-year quest to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon has sadly ended in failure.
1969 will largely be remembered in history as the year that humans first walked on the moon. Despite that happening so long ago, no one has ever been back and even unmanned spacecraft only visit the natural satellite on a semi-regular basis. To this day, the only three countries to have successfully landed a spacecraft on the moon are the US, Russia, and China.
Last week, the world watched as an unexpected fourth nation tried to join that short and elite list. Israel. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAS) wanted to become the first privately funded organization to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon. Its mission to do this started all the way back in 2011 when Google’s Lunar X Prize offered up $20 million to the first privately funded company that could softly land a robot on the moon’s surface.
Eight years of work culminated last week as the world watched while the IAS attempted to land its craft, Beresheet on the moon’s surface. After covering an astounding four million miles on its journey, the mission came to a disappointing end with less than 500 feet left to go. Mission control lost communication with Beresheet and rather than softly touching down, it crashed into the moon’s barren surface.
Although it is heartbreaking to hear that the IAS came so close yet so far to achieving its goal, there are a lot of positives to be taken from the failed mission. For starters, the competition to win $20 million came to an end last year so that was no longer up for grabs. Since the mission has wound up costing around $100 million in total, we can’t imagine the prize money was really the driving force behind wanting to do this.
The ultimate goal might not have been achieved, but a number of other smaller goals definitely have been. The work on this project has greatly improved Israel’s space program. It has also inspired an entire generation of Israeli school children. Team members who worked on the project have met with more than one million schoolchildren over the course of the past eight years, reports Space.com. Perhaps they will be the ones who take the next steps and ensure the next attempt is a successful one.