SpaceIL hoped to be the company to put the first Israeli craft on the moon, but that hope was scuppered when the Beresheet craft crash landed. Now, the company has announced that it will be not sending a second mission to the moon after all, but will be pursuing a different, currently unnamed objective instead.
In April this year, the first private mission to the moon tried to touch down on the lunar surface. Unfortunately for the Beresheet craft, it suffered problems during the descent and crashed into the moon. It subsequently emerged that the crash was caused by a manual command which was entered incorrectly into the craft’s computer, leading to a chain reaction which caused the engine to switch off too soon. The engine didn’t fire early enough to slow the descent of the craft and it impacted the surface, leaving a visible impact crater which was captured by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The company behind Beresheet, SpaceIL, took the crash in stride and soon announced that it would be building Beresheet 2.0 to pick up where the first craft failed. But now the company has changed its course.
“This time, we will not go to the moon,” SpaceIL announced in a tweet. “Beresheet’s journey to the Moon was already received as a successful, record-breaking journey. Instead we will seek out another, significant objective for Beresheet 2.0. More details to follow…”
It’s odd for a scientific mission not to announce its objectives up front, and odder still that SpaceIL previously announced that Beresheet 2.0 would be heading to the moon before apparently changing its mind. The SpaceIL website still states its aim as “Landing the second Israeli Spacecraft on the Moon” as well.
Given that the first Beresheet mission did make it all the way to the moon successfully before it had problems with its landing, it arguably makes sense to aim for a more ambitious second project. And travel to the moon is becoming more commonplace, with both private companies and national governments aiming to achieve moon missions in the near future. Setting a new destination could help increase interest in the project.
On the other hand, perhaps it’s too ambitious to aim for a more distant target when the first iteration of Beresheet wasn’t able to land without crashing. We’ll have to wait and see what SpaceIL’s goal for the Beresheet 2.0 project is and whether they’ll be able to pull it off completely successfully this time.
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