SpaceIL will pick new mission, going to moon ‘not challenging enough’

The organization announces that it will pick a mission that is more groundbreaking than landing safely on the moon.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

SpaceIL, the organization that almost completed its mission to land a spacecraft on the moon in April, has decided not to try again, it announced Tuesday.

Even though the Beresheet (Genesis) lander crashed only a few kilometers from the moon’s surface, its journey “was seared into Israel and the world’s consciousness as a successful one, a breakthrough,” SpaceIL’s statement said.

The mission also broke many records, it said, such as being the smallest spacecraft (2m. x 1.5m.), built with the lowest budget ($100 million), that traveled the greatest distance to get to the moon (6.5 million kilometers).

The nonprofit organization, which sees exciting the younger generation about science in general and space in particular as a major part of its mission, will therefore move forward rather than repeating the journey, despite its previous intention to launch Beresheet 2.

“The repetition of a similar journey does not set the bar required of groundbreaking missions, so it was decided to search for another significant challenge,” SpaceIL said in a statement.

When the Beresheet lunar lander’s engine failed at the last moment, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was watching from the control room, told the press, “Write this down, in three years we will get another spacecraft on the moon, and this one will land in one piece.”

The Ministry of Science’s Israel Space Agency announced in early May that it would contribute NIS 20 million towards the next attempt.

On May 15, a NASA spacecraft found Beresheet’s probable remains. Cameras on its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) “captured a dark smudge, about 10 meters [32 feet] wide, that indicates the point of impact,” NASA officials said. There was “a light halo around the smudge,” they said, which “could have formed from gas associated with the impact or from fine soil particles blown outward during Beresheet’s descent, which smoothed out the soil around the landing site, making it highly reflective.”

The LRO has been going around the moon since 2009, looking particularly for water or ice, and has found the remains of other probes that hit the moon in the 1960s and 1970s.