Israeli moon mission fails, hopes to invigorate interest in space travel

Lev Pearlman, Staff Reporter

On April 11, Israel’s first moon lander mission ended in failure when the lander crashed into the moon.

On February 22, when Israel launched the mission, Case for Israel, Case Western Reserve University’s Israeli culture group, hosted celebrations to mark the event. The lander was named Beresheet, a Hebrew word meaning “in the beginning.” Case for Israel partnered with The Cleveland Hillel Foundation to host a watch party for the historic event.

Members of both organizations and several prospective CWRU students attended the party.

The project was co-developed by SpaceIL, an Israeli non-profit founded by Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub and supported by billionaire Morris Khan. The project launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida in a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The event was especially historic because the total cost of the mission was $100 million. For reference, all the Apollo missions combined cost $125 billion, adjusted for inflation. The event symbolized a coming tide of cheaper space travel.

NASA attributed the low cost of the mission to the long route the rocket took, writing on their website, “The lander separated first from the rocket, taking the long route to the Moon to save fuel by employing gravitational forces to propel itself. Beresheet slowly widened an elliptical orbit around Earth until it was captured by the Moon’s gravity and ultimately commanded to descend.”

The lunar lander was carrying a digital time capsule with “details about the spacecraft and the crew building it; national symbols, like Israel’s Declaration of Independence, the Torah, Israel’s national anthem, ‘Hatikvah,’ and the Israeli flag;” as well as many other items of importance.

However, on April 11 as the lander was making its final descent, the main engine failed, causing the lander to crash into the moon. As it was making its final descent, the lander took a selfie.

Second-year student Lena Rosen and third-year student Jake Roth, the president and treasurer of Case for Israel, respectively, said, “As sad as we were to see the landing fail, the achievement of being the seventh nation to orbit the moon and the cheapest mission to the moon ever should not be understated. We look forward to Israel’s next attempt.”

They may not have to wait long.

Kahn announced plans for Beresheet 2 on April 13.

The mission we started, I hope we can complete. This is my goal,” he said. “As for my message for all the youngsters—if it doesn’t work at first, stand up, and complete it. And this is what I’m doing, and what I wanted to tell you this evening. Thank you.”