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Israeli-built lander crashes on moon

Beresheet view of moon
One of the last pictures sent back by the Beresheet lander shows the lunar surface. (SpaceIL Photo)

An Israeli-built lander crashed onto the moon today during its final descent, bringing an unfortunate end to the first privately funded lunar mission.

“We had a failure on the spacecraft,” Opher Doron, general manager of Israel Aerospace Industries’ space division, said during a live webcast of the spacecraft’s landing attempt. “We unfortunately have not managed to land successfully.”

The crash was traced to an apparent engine malfunction. It came a month and a half after the dishwasher-sized lander was sent into space by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with a pre-launch logistical assist from Seattle-based Spaceflight.

The Beresheet lander, which took its name from the Hebrew phrase for “In the Beginning,” was funded with nearly $100 million in private money, led by Israeli billionaire Morris Kahn’s $40 million contribution. Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson provided another $24 million for the effort.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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