Israel's privately funded lunar craft crashed just before landing on the moon

Israel's Beresheet craft takes selfie before crash-landing on the moon
(Image credit: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

Israel's Beresheet spacecraft came very close to becoming the first privately financed lunar craft to land on the moon's surface, but it crashed during its final descent on Thursday. Israel would have been only the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the lunar surface, following the Soviet Union (1966), the U.S. (1969, with astronauts on board), and China (2019). Beresheet ("In the Beginning") was in its final descent when apparent engine failure and other technical difficulties ended the mission. The $100 million project kept costs low by hitching a ride into space on a SpaceX cargo rocket in February.

"I am sorry to say that our spacecraft did not make it in one piece to the moon," said Opher Doron, the manager of Israel Aerospace Industries' Space Division, which built the spacecraft with private Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL. "We made it all the way to the moon. This is a great accomplishment. We are the seventh country to make it all the way to the moon." Beresheet's mission included scientific research on magnetic fields, though, BBC News notes, "its first job was to use its high resolution cameras to take some photos — including a selfie — which it did manage before the crash."

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.