This is reportedly the last picture that Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft sent back to Earth before it crashed into the Moon at 3:23 PM ET.
When the spacecraft was captured by the Moon’s gravity on April 4, Israel became the seventh nation to insert a probe into lunar orbit. On Thursday, it became the fifth nation to send a robot to the Moon’s surface, though it was not the soft touchdown the mission leaders had hoped for.
At this time, it’s not clear what caused the engine and telemetry malfunctions that led up to the failure. But even though it is not the ideal outcome, Beresheet is in good company. Many lunar probes have crash-landed on the Moon, both deliberately and accidentally.
Beresheet was conceived and developed by the Israeli nonprofit organization SpaceIL, with funding and support from the Israel Space Agency, Israel Aerospace Industries, and multiple philanthropic investors.
NASA experienced similar setbacks at the dawn of spaceflight when the agency’s Ranger 4 satellite crashed into the far side of the Moon on April 26, 1962—it was still the first American object to reach another world.
Crashes are a bummer in the moment, but they do not preclude successful landings in the future.
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