Following its brave attempt at a soft landing on the Moon, SpaceIL, the Israeli non-profit organisation that attempted a lunar mission in April this year, was presented with the XPrize Moonshot Award. The ceremony took place in Los Angeles after it was announced that the award would go to the SpaceIL team shortly after the Beresheet lunar lander crash landed on the lunar surface during its historic attempt.
The spacecraft, launched by SpaceX from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on 22 February 2019, successfully moved into lunar orbit on April 4th. It was the first privately-owned object to land on the lunar surface, and carried a scientific payload to measure the Moon’s magnetic field to help scientists understand how the Moon was originally formed. The craft also carried a time capsule that contains digital files of the Bible, children’s drawings, Israeli folk songs, the recorded memories of a Holocaust survivor, and the Israeli flag.
During a live broadcast from SpaceIL’s Mission Control, Opher Doron, the general manager of IAI said: “We had a failure in the spacecraft; we unfortunately have not managed to land successfully. It’s a tremendous achievement up ’til now.”
The spacecraft was developed in response to the Google Lunar X Prize competition that ended last year. Mostly privately funded, the spacecraft suffered a malfunction on its approach to the Moon which meant it was unable to slow down. Despite restarting its engines, Beresheet crashed.
Even though the final landing was not successful, the smallest spacecraft ever built (by the smallest team), Beresheet has inspired many and transmitted some incredible images back to Earth. The team has confirmed that it has a Beresheet 2.0 in the pipeline, but details are yet to be confirmed.
Firefly Aerospace was particularly inspired by Beresheet’s adventure and has committed to use the design as the basis for its future lunar missions. The company, one of nine selected for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) programme, will develop a lunar lander that will eventually take scientific payloads to the lunar surface to conduct experiments.