An Israeli spacecraft has failed in its attempt to make history as the first privately funded lunar mission.
The SpaceIL spacecraft, called Beresheet, lost contact with Earth late Thursday, just moments before it was to land on the moon, and scientists declared the mission a failure.
The small robotic spacecraft, built by the non-profit SpaceIL and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, had hoped to match a feat that has only been achieved by the national space agencies of three countries: U.S., Russia and China.
“If at first you don’t succeed, try try again,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was on hand for what organizers had hoped to be a celebration.
Israel launched the spacecraft on Feb. 21, riding piggyback on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. It spent six weeks orbiting Earth in leisurely, ever-widening circles before slipping into orbit around the moon on April 4. It remained there for a week, preparing for the defining moment of the mission: attempting to touch down softly on the moon’s surface.