Israel's Beresheet Spacecraft, First Private Mission to the Moon Fails to Land on Surface
A photo of the Moon's surface captured by Israeli spacecraft Beresheet before it's engine failed | (Photo Credit: Twitter, TeamSpaceIL)

Toronto, April 12: The Israeli spacecraft, Beresheet - the first privately funded mission to the Moon was unable to make a landing on the Moon’s surface and has crashed after one of its main engines failed, according to reports.

The landing was to occur at 10:25 pm local time and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was expected to watch from the control room in Yehud, near Tel Aviv. "While this is a great step for Israel, it is a huge step for Israeli technology," Netanyahu had said at the time of the launch.

The spacecraft was launched on February 22 from Cape Canaveral in Florida. It spent weeks orbiting the Earth before being captured by the Moon’s gravitational force and began its lunar orbit just a week ago.

The mission for Beresheet was to land on the surface and carried an instrument to measure the lunar magnetic field, data which would help with understanding the moon's formation. The spacecraft was also carrying a reflector from Nasa to help scientists make accurate measurements of the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

Beresheet reportedly attempted a soft landing but had several technical and communication problems. The engine was built by British firm Nammo in Westcott, Buckinghamshire.

Rob Westcott, senior propulsion engineer at Nammo, said "We've never used an engine in this kind of application before. "The big challenge is the fact that the engine is going to have to be switched on and get very hot, then switched off for a short period of time when all that heat is remaining in its thermal mass, and then fired up again, very accurately and very precisely such that it slows the craft down and lands very softly on the surface on the Moon." The entire sequence was to take about 20 minutes.

The failure of a Beresheet is a big disappointment for Israel as it was hoping to become the fourth nation ever to land its spacecraft on the Moon. Till date, only the U.S., Russia and China have managed to do so.

This project has taken eight years and cost over US $ 100 million. Beresheet was a joint project between SpaceIL, a privately funded Israeli non-profit organisation, and Israel Aerospace Industries.