JERUSALEM — The Israeli spacecraft Beresheet crashed onto the moon on Thursday after a series of technical failures during its final descent, shattering hopes of a historic controlled landing on the lunar surface.
The unmanned robotic lander suffered periodic engine and communications failures during the 21 minutes or so of the landing sequence, the support team said.
Beresheet, whose name is Hebrew for the biblical phrase “In the beginning”, had travelled through space for seven weeks in a series of expanding orbits around Earth before crossing into the moon’s gravity last week.
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The final manoeuvre on Wednesday brought it into a tight elliptical orbit around the moon, 15-17 km (9-10.5 miles) from the surface at its closest. From there it was a short, nail-biting and ultimately disappointing conclusion.
So far, only three nations have succeeded in carrying out a “soft” landing on the lunar surface: the United States, the Soviet Union and China.