In an announcement yesterday, the chairman of SpaceIL, Morris Kahn, said that the leaders of the group behind the Beresheet launch would begin meeting to find a new group of donors for another run at a lunar landing.
On Thursday the first Israeli mission to the moon ended in failure when the organization’s spacecraft Beresheet (which means Genesis in Hebrew) crashed on the lunar surface.
“This is part of my message to the younger generation: Even if you do not succeed, you get up again and try,” Kahn said in a statement.
At a cost of $200 million the Beresheet mission would have been among the cheapest lunar landings ever attempted — and the first legitimate attempt by a private organization to make it to the moon (even though the SpaceIL organization had significant backing from the Israeli government).
The project started as an attempt to claim the Google Lunar Xprize, which was announced over ten years ago and was not awarded because no team could make an attempt at a landing within the timeframe specified. But, Beresheet’s developers labored on with help from Israel Aerospace Industries — the country’s state-owned aviation business.
In part, the cost of the lunar landing was defrayed by using existing launch technologies. Beresheet started its voyage by hitching a ride on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
After spiraling out of earth’s orbit for a month and a half, the Beresheet spacecraft entered lunar orbit just over a week ago before making its attempted landing last Thursday.
The final maneuver was an engine burn that would slow the spacecraft’s descent onto the lunar surface so that it could park on the Moon’s Sea of Serenity.
The vehicle made it most of the way to the moon. It took a picture of the blue marble from about 22 kilometers above the lunar surface and — a few minutes later — was lost.
Both Peter Diamandis, the founder of XPrize, and Anousheh Ansari, the foundation’s current chief executive, spoke to TechCrunch about the landing last week.
“What I’m seeing here is an incredible ‘Who’s Who’ from science, education and government who have gathered to watch this miracle take place,” Diamandis said. “We launched this competition now 11 years ago to inspire and educate engineers, and despite the fact that it ran out of time it has achieved 100 percent of its goal. Even if it doesn’t make it onto the ground fully intact it has ignited a level of electricity and excitement that reminds me of the Ansari Xprize 15 years ago.”
Meanwhile, Ansari emphasized the potential to reinvigorate commercial interest in lunar exploration and experimentation that the landing could evoke.
“Imagine, over the last 50 years only 500 people out of seven billion have been to space — that number will be thousands soon,” she said. “We believe there’s so much more that can be done in this area of technology, a lot of real business opportunities that benefit civilization but also humanity.”