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.