Israeli spacecraft crashes on to the moon in epic failure

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The contest offered $20 million for the first privately funded team to launch a spacecraft to the moon, transmit high-definition video and travel 500 meters in any direction. It was built by state-owned IAI and Israeli non-profit space venture SpaceIL with $100 million funded nearly entirely by private donors. Besides trying to win the X-Prize, the SpaceIL effort was also meant to inspire Israelis and others to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), to create an "Apollo effect" in the country.

During the project's development, the SpaceIL team met with more than 1 million kids to tell them about their story. Unusually, the project was also entirely funded by private donors, including prominent philanthropists such as South African-born billionaire Morris Kahn.

In this Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, file photo, Buzz Aldrin, former NASA Astronaut and Apollo 11 Pilot, prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, before the Senate subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness hearing on human exploration goals and commercial space competitiveness.

An Israeli spacecraft, Beresheet, crashed trying to land on the moon Thursday afternoon. "We have a failure of the spacecraft ... we have not landed successfully", SpaceIL said in the livestream.

The Leros engine provided the power to get the spacecraft all the way to the Moon, but it also took Beresheet on its final descent.

XPRIZE officials attended the landing attempt at mission control and said the nonprofit will still receive $1 million to help them to continue their work and pursue another mission. They are created to extend out so that the craft would be 2.3 meters (7.5 feet) wide when the legs are deployed. The spacecraft even snapped a quick selfie with the lunar surface in the background at an altitude of around 22 kilometers.

People in the Israeli city of Netanya watching images taken by the camera of the Israel Beresheet spacecraft of the moon surface before it crashed.

Beresheet would have been the first craft to land on the moon that was not the product of a government programme. Another payload is a CD-sized "time capsule" that contains digitized files of children's drawings, photographs and information about Israeli culture. It was then launched on the back of a SpaceX rocket where it orbited the Earth over and over, using the planet's gravity to accelerate the craft and the rocket's propulsion system to steer it away from the atmosphere in short, controlled bursts.

A full scale model of the Beresheet moon probe. "It makes it really hard to test" the spacecraft's landing back on Earth. Moments later, the mission was declared a failure.

It was expected to land in the Sea of Serenity, on the northern hemisphere of the moon's near side.

Last week the spacecraft left the Earth's orbit and began its descent to the lunar surface.

SpaceIL was founded eight years ago to compete for the Google Lunar XPrize. "An Israeli satellite will one day land on the moon".

Israel, however, is one of just seven countries to have orbited the Moon, thanks to the Beresheet mission.

India hopes to become the fifth lunar country in the spring with its Chandrayaan-2 mission.