Israel's Beresheet spacecraft failed to land on the moon in a highly anticipated mission that would have made SpaceIL the first private company to accomplish the feat. The $100 million joint venture between SpaceIL and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. was financed mostly by Jewish philanthropists including Morris Kahn, SpaceIL’s president and a founder of Amdocs Ltd., and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. The probe ended its “ride share” on SpaceX after 38 minutes and, if all goes according to plan, will land in the Sea of Tranquility on April 11, the project’s leaders said several days before the launch. A successful flight would've make Israel just the fourth country to land on the moon. So far only superpowers -- the Soviet Union, U.S. and China -- have made the voyage, with their governments’ strong financial backing. “This is the first mission of a small country to the moon,” and a non-governmental effort at that, SpaceIL Chief Executive Officer Ido Anteby told reporters near Tel Aviv. “The whole world is watching because it’s clear to everyone that it opens a new horizon in commercial launches to the moon.” Israel’s prior experience in space has been tinged with tragedy: The country’s first astronaut, Col. Ilan Ramon, died in the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, and an Israeli-made satellite that was set to go into orbit in 2016 aboard a SpaceX rocket blew up during a failed launch test. SpaceIL’s founding was typical of Start-Up Nation: A group of friends hatched the project over drinks at a Tel Aviv-area bar in response to a Google technology competition with a $20 million prize, co-founder Yonatan Winetraub said. When the contest ended with no winner, the partners decided to seek other sponsors rather than give up the quest.
To save size and money, Beresheet’s designers decided to skip the kind of backup systems for power, communications and the like that are standard on most spacecraft. That leaves no margin for error if any key system fails.
“I’m not sure chutzpah” -- Yiddish for “audacity” -- “wouldn’t have been a better name than Beresheet,” said Opher Doron, general manager of IAI’s space division. “How much chutzpah is it to get to the moon with $100 million?”
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