The Israeli-built Beresheet uncrewed experimental lunar lander is launched from Cape Canaveral aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Originally intended as an entrant for the Google Lunar X Prize, Beresheet (and all the other hopefuls) missed the March 31, 2018 deadline, leaving the $20,000,000 Lunar X Prize unclaimed. Unlike past lunar missions, Beresheet is launched into a high Earth orbit, whose apogee (maximum distance from Earth) will be increased over a period of nearly two months with multiple burns of the vehicle’s main engine until it coincides with the orbital distance of the moon, at which time the engine will be fired again to place it in a lunar orbit prior to landing. The lander contains digital copies of numerous documents from Earth, reflecting the builders’ Jewish heritage as well as extensive databases of knowledge from sources such as Wikipedia. As the lander itself has not been built with protective shielding of any kind, its operational lifetime is expected to last only around two days on the lunar surface. If the mission succeeds, Israel will be the fourth nation (after the United States, Soviet-era Russia, and China) to land a spacecraft on the moon.
The Israeli-built Beresheet uncrewed experimental lunar lander, during its attempt to land on the moon, loses engine power during descent and plummets toward the lunar surface. Though the main engine is believed to have restarted during that descent, the vehicle is too low to make a survivable landing and crashes on the moon. The Google Lunar X Prize committee awards $1,000,000 to SpaceIL, the Israeli space exploration organization founded specifically to launch the Beresheet mission, and the mission’s backers vow to use the prize to build a second Beresheet lander to attempt to complete the original vehicle’s mission.