Israel Plans 2024 Moonshot After First Unmanned Lander Crashed

YERUSHALAYIM -
The SpaceIL lunar module shown on exhibit in advance of its unsuccessful landing on the moon in April 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)

Israel will try another unmanned lunar landing in early 2024 after its first attempt ended last year with the spacecraft crashing on the moon’s surface, officials said on Wednesday.

The new project, named Beresheet 2, will involve launching two landing craft and an orbiter that would circle the moon for years, conducting experiments and collecting data on behalf of school students, the Science Ministry said in statement.

Hoping to become the fourth country to carry out a controlled lunar landing, Israel in early 2019 launched Beresheet from Cape Canaveral.

But the dishwasher-sized robotic spacecraft crashed during the final approach, with engineers blaming technical failure.

SpaceIL, in cooperation with Israel Aerospace Industries and the Israeli Space Agency at the Ministry of Science and Technology, have initiated the Beresheet 2 project, as part of which the second Israeli spacecraft will be sent to space. Beresheet 2 will comprise three spacecraft – one orbiter and two landers – and will be launched in around four years. Along with scientific missions and international cooperation, the project will be aimed at inspiring young people across the country from all parts of Israeli society.

President Reuven Rivlin hosted the launch of the Beresheet 2 project, the second Israeli spacecraft to be launched, in the President’s Residence on Wednesday.

In his remarks, Rivlin said, “We are setting out on a new path, familiar but different, at the end of which we hope to land three spacecraft safely on the moon. This project will extend the boundaries of human knowledge with groundbreaking scientific experiments, helping us to understand better the universe in which we live.

“Just a year and a half ago, we were here together, when Israel held its breath and looked to the stars. We anxiously watched the Beresheet spacecraft on its historic journey to the moon. We watched its long journey, were in wonder at the researchers and were filled with pride at the Israeli daring and ability that flourished right here and at the groundbreaking work of Space IL. We were disappointed, and realized that we had to start once again from the beginning. Today, we are setting out on a new path, familiar but different, at the end of which we hope to land three spacecraft safely on the moon,” said the president.

“The Beresheet 2 mission to space is unique. If it succeeds – and I am sure it will – this project will extend the boundaries of human knowledge with ground-breaking scientific experiments, helping us to understand better the universe in which we live. By launching Beresheet at the present time, when the world is dealing with a health crisis the like of which has never been seen, is not to be taken for granted. In the shadow of the virus, it becomes clear to us how big concepts like science, medicine and research can fundamentally shake the foundations on which we live. It becomes clear to us how much we have to learn, not just on distant planets and in boundless galaxies, but here on our planet,” said Rivlin.

Science Minister Yizhar Shai said, “The Ministry of Science and Technology and the Israeli Space Agency are proud to be partners in the second chapter of the Beresheet mission. This is a groundbreaking and inspiring initiative, with determined innovators who are an example to all those with an eye to the future. We are pleased to announce that in conversations with the Israeli Space Agency, seven countries from five continents have expressed an interest in participating in the project, and that in conversations with the United Arab Emirates, the subject has been raised several times. I have no doubt that Beresheet will once again spark our imagination, redefining the boundaries of the possible and securing Israel’s status as a powerhouse of innovation.”

CEO of SpaceIL Shimon Sarid said, “We are aiming high with Beresheet. Not just to outer space, but to the long-term future of the State of Israel. We will do it by raising curiosity and hope, the ability to dream and realize, and through strengthening technological education, research, science and engineering for Israeli students. By doing so, we will ensure Israel’s technological mobility for today’s schoolchildren who are tomorrow’s scientists and engineers.”