Beresheet: In the Beginning, the Landing Didn’t Stick

Beresheet, the little Israeli lunar lander that could, has ended its months-long journey to the moon with a bang.

Well, more specifically, a crash.

The spacecraft, a joint mission of SpaceIL, a private Israeli company, and Israel Aerospace Industries, began its landing attempt at around 10:10 pm in Israel – 2:10 pm CST. By 10:25 pm, the SpaceIL control room was tense as Beresheet’s main engine cut out. Though the engine was brought back online, communications cut out.

After about more two minutes, it became clear the lander had crashed. “We had a failure in the spacecraft, we unfortunately have not managed to land successfully,” said one of the SpaceIL announcers. But, “we are the seventh country to orbit the moon, and the fourth to reach the moon’s surface. It’s a tremendous achievement up to now.”

“If at first you don’t succeed, you try again,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He promised Israel would make it to the moon in the future.

Beresheet hit the surface of the moon at a speed of 134 meters per second (around 440 feet per second) and as of now is, in all ways, unsalvageable. But out of the bittersweet moment comes more than just achievements, as the craft took an inspiring low-altitude selfie with the moon in the background shortly before its demise.

Jokes are already rolling in about the event, coming so soon after the Israeli national elections that saw a victory for Netanyahu and the right-wing political bloc.

“Upon hearing of the Israeli election results, Bereshit decided to end its suffering and never come back,” quipped a French yeshiva student in Jerusalem on Facebook. Many are comparing the crash of Beresheet to former Israeli chief of staff Benny Gantz’s loss in the elections, as his Blue and White party received as many votes as Netanyahu but has no hope of creating a governing coalition.

Then again, there’s always an opportunity for good old-fashioned Mossad humor. “Israel says its unmanned spacecraft just crash-landed on the moon, which is exactly what you’d *expect* someone to say if they are concealing a supply run to the secret Mossad lunar base,” said Yair Rosenberg, a journalist for Tablet Magazine, on Facebook.

Unfortunately, as Israeli election drama continues with voting irregularity and demands for recounts, Beresheet can no longer bring a simple hope, joy, and distraction to the masses. Thank God we’ve got that selfie though.