back to article Israeli Moon probe crashes at the last minute but SpaceX scores with Falcon Heavy launch

The first attempt by a private company to land a probe on the Moon's surface ended in failure on Thursday when the vehicle crashed minutes before it was supposed to land. The Beresheet lander, run by Israeli firm SpaceIL, was due to touch down on the lunar regolith after months spent getting into position. The lander carried a …

  1. the Jim bloke

    as the saying goes – space is hard.

    apparently, planetoids are harder.

    As the martian landers demonstrated, Lithobraking will bring you to a dead stop in several fractions, of a second.

    1. Youngone Silver badge

      Re: as the saying goes – space is hard.

      I'm OK with failures like these. Someone will learn something valuable and not make the same mistakes.

      That's how thing improve.

    2. jmch Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: as the saying goes – space is hard.

      "Lithobraking "

      Word of the day!

    3. richdin

      Re: as the saying goes – space is hard.

      Lithobr[e]aking - resulting in rapid unscheduled disassembly?

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: as the saying goes – space is hard.

        Not necessarily, using airbags (like Mars Pathfinder), still counts as lithobraking. As long as your probe (why don't we call them what they really are, space robots!) uses and impact to slow it down, I guess that would count, so airbags, springs, crumple structure so all count.

        Although I suppose if you look at it that way, any probe that drops the last few inches might count as lithobraking...

    4. Anonymous Coward

      It was obviously the Nazis that shot it down

      Everyone knows they have a base on the far side of the Moon, they aren't about to let a Jewish built lander touch the soil of the fourth Reich!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It was obviously the Nazis that shot it down

        Wernher von Braun and Sergei Korolev's amazing race $$$ It does seem crazy to think that the man that effectively won this race was a nazi just a few years earlier.

      2. TheVogon

        Re: It was obviously the Nazis that shot it down

        Surely it was the Martians not wanting the far side of the moon to become colonial occupied territory?

    5. TheVogon

      Re: as the saying goes – space is hard.

      So the moon wont have colonies just yet then.

  2. RegGuy1 Silver badge

    Stunning -- for both

    This is why I have faith in the future.

    How big an industry will this be by 2030? Add to this the possibility of Japan mining asteroids by then.


    1. kventin

      Re: Stunning -- for both

      Add to that the possibility of China getting there first, raise some claims, settle them with a little bit of aggressive negotiations... i fashion the future on films in space.

      and you know what kind.

  3. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    Root cause of the failure: artificial deadlines. From the New York Times, a paragraph now deleted: "After firing up its main engine to slow its speed, the spacecraft began its descent of no return, guided by a laser that measured its altitude. 'It's a system that was quite challenging in the development and arrived quite late,' said Mr. Doron said (sic) on Wednesday. That limited the amount of testing".

    No, Mr Doron, you limited the amount of testing. You attempted to operate the engine outside its design parameters and did not bother to test first.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Budget limits time

      Lets try the alternate plan taking more time. Presumably you are going to do something in that time which will cost money. If you do not have the money you have to store your spaceship in the cupboard until more money appears. Unfortunately you cannot store your employees in a cupboard. Without money they are likely to wander off hunting for food. If more money does eventually appear you will not get all your employees back. You will have to find new ones who will then cost time and money to understand the project.

      Part of the reason Beagle 2 performed an unplanned lithobraking manoeuvre involved time and money. Testing facilities have to be booked months in advance. At the time money was not there. Money did appear later but testing facilities were then booked up past the launch date of the ride share.

      Both projects decided to go with what they had rather than risk not going at all.

      1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        Re: Budget limits time

        And the bit about operating outside its parameters? The manufacturer said, "don't push the evelope". They pushed it.

        The engine did not have time to cool sufficiently before they required restart, per the manufacturer.

        This is not quite as bad as Challenger, mostly because no one died, but it is exactly the same class of failure.

      2. Dagg Silver badge

        Re: Budget limits time

        Looks like they used an Agle approach....

        1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

          Re: Budget limits time

          Absolutely not! Agile drops features to meet deadlines, not testing.

          1. BebopWeBop

            Re: Budget limits time

            Testing is part of the Agile 'methodology'?

            1. phuzz Silver badge

              Re: Budget limits time

              Yes, but most of the time the testing is someone else's job. Often the end user.

            2. Dagg Silver badge

              Re: Budget limits time

              Testing is part of the Agile 'methodology'?

              So is requirements gathering. And you can only test to the small set of requirements. Anything outside the requirements is not important and can be sorted out next release.

              Little requirements like a soft landing. Hey, we only need that right at the end so we will throw what we have over the fence and then start of developing the soft landing requirement.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Budget limits time

            Agile drops features to meet deadlines

            You mean like a soft landing.....

            1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

              Re: Budget limits time

              Well, bad agile, yes..

        2. MyffyW Silver badge


          If you are going to fail, you might as well fail fast.

          [though note, NASA / Roscosmos / et al, this isn't a brilliant idea with astronauts on board]

      3. Andrew Newstead

        Re: Budget limits time

        Just for the record, it's looking like Beagle 2 actually made it to the surface intact, according to images made by one of the orbiting spacecraft recently. What seems to have occurred is that the craft failed to deploy properly and was not able to bring it's communications antenna online.

    2. robidy

      They had a launch deadline...they were piggy backing off someone elses launch to save money...hence the longtime it took to get to the moon.

      You can't just ask people with commercial projects to delay them because your low budget project they are subsidising is behind schedule.

      1. defiler

        To me, this is the critical factor. They "borrowed" some space, and pushing back the deadline for further testing would have lost this slot. They may not have been able to "borrow" more.

        (For values of "borrow" that will likely have involved an exchange of money for goods and services.)

  4. redpawn

    Better than the Space Shuttle,

    almost as cool and much more reusable. Go Falcons!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Better than the Space Shuttle,

      They spend in space ten minutes instead of two weeks. Falcon payload can't be returned to Earth (but with its own re-entry system) They will never support a crew of seven for two weeks with full EVA capabilities and a robotic arm to help. Payload weight is not everything - payload dimensions can be important as well - the Shuttle had a 18.3 m long and 4.6 m wide cargo bay. The Falcon has a cylindrical space of only 6.6m which becomes 11 if you can fit things in the conical space.

      They are a great system - but to match Space Shuttle capabilities it will take a lot more.

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: Better than the Space Shuttle,

        No one want to duplicate the Space Shuttles capabilites, because those capbilities are not useful any more. SpaceX have the Dragon2, which will do most of what the SS did at the end of its life (deliver people to the ISS), which is exactly what it was designed to do. The dragon 1 also outperforms the other cargo capsules in that it can return a decent mass from the ISS. The SpaceX reusable system is massively cheaper than the SS, but does an awful lot.

        And of course. SpaceX have Starship, which will outdo the SS if it works.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "because those capbilities are not useful any more"

          No actually they don't duplicate such capabilities because they are not able to make it at an acceptable price - not because they aren't useful.

          Hubble would have been billion dollars wasted without those capabilities. The ISS would have never been built without the Shuttle, and as soon as the ISS is dumped into the sea the Dragon will become quite useless - you go to space, and then? Sure, you can launch a separate platform - which will add to the overall cost anyway - especially if that platform is quite large and can't return.

          Space is becoming increasingly crowded, and the idea of launching satellites and leaving them there as garbage to rot for ages will become soon not acceptable. Expensive ones could be refurbished, other will need to be properly disposed of - especially if they become dangerous. Not all this kind of missions will be possible with robotic missions only - just look at their failure rate every time they attempt something more complex than pointing a space telescope.

          Shuttle was built with space-operation capabilities. It was used as a launcher or an astronaut bus to the ISS, and for that it was uselessly expensive. Big mistake. It couldn't be a commercial vehicle.

          But to build the next station, and the next space operation capabilities away from any station, we will need something alike the Shuttle again.

          Just hope the Internet and mobile phones won't have zeroed people IQ meanwhile.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "because those capbilities are not useful any more"

            "It put the ISS into space" [Shuttle]

            "As soon as the ISS is gone it's useless" [SpaceX]

            Pick one, you cannot claim the shuttle both provides for the ISS but was not dependent on it, and SpaceX "relies" on the ISS but could not have provided for it. As that's also what the Shuttle did.

            You cannot claim that the Hubble would not have existed, if like, that's *also* what other heavy lift launchers do.

            Yes, SpaceX has no orbital crew systems, because that's not what they are tasked or aiming at.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "because those capbilities are not useful any more"

              No need to pick one.

              The Shuttle could lift the ISS pieces - and act as a "space workshop" to assemble it - and still could work as a "space station" itself. It did with the SpaceLab before the ISS existed - and could bring it back to reuse it.

              Look at the Dragon 2 very limited EVA capabilities, and compare them with the Shuttle. Without an orbital outpost, the Dragon becomes quite useless. And good luck to replace the ISS in the current geopolitical situation.

              Hubble would have existed - sure, it could have been launched on a heavy launcher - but it could not have been repaired. It would have been a big piece of space junk barely usable after a lot of image post-processing to remove the mirror issues. Pray that Webb has no issues, as nothing can reach it at its Lagrangian station... a real improvement would have been to operate at greater distances.

              Astronautics went back more than fifty years - as pure "space operations" capabilities. Back to launch rockets and get capsules back from low orbits.

        2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Better than the Space Shuttle,

          And the USAF have the X-37B for some of the things they like to do

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Falcon great

  6. macjules


    "Do you think we overdid it with the complete printout of Wikipedia?"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oops

      I suspect that the Monolith merely objected to the unnecessary inclusion of godbothery literature in the payload.

      (The Monolith is an equal opportunities object, and dislikes equally all propaganda for any varieties of gods, lest anyone try to read something in particular into this post that isn't there.)

  7. Steve Button Silver badge

    crashed minutes before landing?

    How is this possible? Surely it crashed, and perhaps bounced a bit and then all the bits landed after a few seconds?

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: crashed minutes before landing?

      Nah, as the saying goes: they didn't land, they just stopped flying.

      And: as long as the pieces are scattered along the runway and the pilot can walk away it's a good landing.

      1. BebopWeBop

        Re: crashed minutes before landing?

        I heard one of the Israeli engineers discussing the flight. I paraphrase but part of his comment was 'of course we are going to land, we just aren't certain in how many pieces'

      2. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: crashed minutes before landing?

        > ended in failure on Thursday when the vehicle crashed minutes before landing.

        It crashed into [ blank ] minutes before landing on the moon.

        [ Traffic light / soup dragon / UFO / drone / Canada goose / fish finger / Russell's teapot ]

        1. Christoph

          Re: crashed minutes before landing?

          [Elon's Tesla]

        2. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

          Re: crashed minutes before landing?

          [secret Nazi moon base]

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: crashed minutes before landing?

      I assume that means minutes before the scheduled landing

    3. I&I

      Re: crashed minutes before landing?

      “Serenity Bits”

    4. Aladdin Sane

      Re: crashed minutes before landing?

      BSOD in space.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a complete copy of Wikipedia, the Torah, the declaration of Israeli independence

    Yeah, shit happens when you mix science, religion and politics.

    1. Long John Brass

      Re: a complete copy of Wikipedia, the Torah, the declaration of Israeli independence

      You want Cthulu? Because that's how you get Cthulu

  9. Ken 16 Silver badge

    British engine

    I don't mean this as criticism of Nammo's engine, it got them to the moon and landing was always ambitious. Well done to the whole team.

    I did find the UK news coverage a little amusing as over the course of the week every story mentioned "British built main engine" in the first paragraph until last night when it became a failure of the Israeli spacecrafts main engine that caused the crash.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: British engine

      I'm somewhat inclined to presume that in sections of the Israeli press it might have been weeks of all "Israeli spacecraft", until last night when they suddenly went for "British built main engine" instead. :-)

  10. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

    Falcon: nice show, shame about the feed

    The live stream kept crashing, I missed the first booster separation and nearly missed the dual landing. The feed on OCISLY also failed and was only restored once the booster had landed.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      "The feed on OCISLY also failed and was only restored once the booster had landed."

      Just in time to let SpaceX crew inflate a copy of the rocket....

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: "The feed on OCISLY also failed and was only restored once the booster had landed."


        There's going to be a lot of red faces in Mission Control if they've just had to inflate 2 70m high inflatable rockets. Even if they're not blowing into tubes, but using a foot pump...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "The feed on OCISLY also failed and was only restored once the booster had landed."

          I guess they have a lot of experience with gas generators... <G>

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Falcon: nice show, shame about the feed

      My disappointment was in the fact that at 9am local time yesterday the webcast said the feed would begin in 25 hours, then when I checked at 10am today the mission was already over. WTF SpaceX.

  11. BebopWeBop

    when the vehicle crashed minutes before landing.

    I think it crashed while landing - however crunchingly. Unless he was intercepted by the Soup Dragon.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      You posted five minutes before I did, though I hadn't read your post before I too brought the Soup Dragon into this! :)

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Unless he was intercepted by the Soup Dragon

      I guess the Soup Dragon was hired by the Moonmin[1] trolls to stop the landing. It's all a conspiracy I tell you!

      [1] Tenuous connections R' Us! But I couldn't resist the name..

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Nah, before.

      If you are landing, it takes, say 10 mins... if your engines don't turn on, you don't "land" in one piece, but it only takes like 5 mins.

      Cookie for the person who realises why it's quicker not to "land". ;)

  12. Empire of the Pussycat

    only two possibilities

    either it was hacked by iran, or, more likely, it picked up the israeli election result and decided to end it all

  13. IT Poser

    So close Beresheet, so close.

    This wasn't the first time Beresheet's engine failed to burn. On February 26th we learned that Beresheet failed to conduct a scheduled burn[1][2]. The cause was a Single Event Effect[3], a radiation event that disrupted the computer. Beresheet's software was modified to make it more robust to these events[4].

    There was a problem with the star trackers. Star trackers are notoriously difficult. SpaceIL handled that problem well.

    As of now we don't have definitive word on what exactly went wrong during the landing burn. What we do know is that IMU2(inertial measurement units) failed and everything went sideways(literally and figuratively).

    As Meatloaf sang, "Two outta three ain't bad." I, for one, hope the team gets another shot.





    If you really want to get your space geek on NSF(citation [4]) has over 400 mostly informative posts about Beresheet alone.

    1. Alan_Peery

      Re: So close Beresheet, so close.

      Very informative post, thanks.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So close Beresheet, so close.

      Well, Booboo, I guess that's one Bere that didn't get to sheet in the woods...

      (Sorry, I'll get my coat. A valiant effort, though.)

  14. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Well, there's one consolation for Beresheet

    The time capsule made it.

  15. I&I

    Mare Map

  16. DeeCee

    netanyahu called moon antisemitic and mossad poisoned it

  17. Caver_Dave Silver badge

    On the cheap

    The bit they failed to do was pay our alien overlord the correct landing fee.

    Of course, they were shot down.

    I'll get my coat

  18. ICPurvis47

    "The exact cause of the fault is still being analyzed"

    Windows 10?

    1. BebopWeBop

      Re: "The exact cause of the fault is still being analyzed"

      But would that be exact enough?

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: "The exact cause of the fault is still being analyzed"

      No. This spacecraft ran on Lunix.

      It turns out that Linus was sent to Earth by our Clanger overlords...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Windows 10?

      Look at the positive side - they would have a lot of telemetry

  19. STOP_FORTH Silver badge


    Those boosters landed seconds apart. Get a grip Muskie. And fix up the video feed on the barge, it's always failing at a critical point in the landing.


    Nice to see Netanyahu quoting Robert the Bruce, though.

    1. Alistair

      Re: Synchronised?


      Perhaps the co-ordination of the landings is coded in ... forth?

      1. STOP_FORTH Silver badge

        Re: Synchronised?

        Quite possibly, but the last dual landing I saw video of, the two boosters landed simultaneously.

        Whilst I am aware of forth and some of its features, I never seriously dabbled in it myself.

        Java is a more likely candidate, forth was one step up from machine code!

        My Reg handle is derived from something else entirely but cunningly modified to sound computery.


  20. Alan_Peery

    I think there's a misattributed quote

    The article says

    "We didn't make it but we really tried," said X Prize founder Peter Diamandis, who was at the launch. "The achievement has been tremendous and I think we can be proud."

    I think it's actually Morris Kahn s(, speaking, not Peter Diamandis ( Check the photos, and the apparent age of the speaker.

    Both definitely rate consideration on this day. Mr Kahn funded a substantial part of the Beresheet probe personally. Peter Diamandis has had a significant role in moving space flight forward through a lifelong devotion to the topic as can been seen from his involvement in the Ansari X Prize (leading to today's nearly complete Virgin Galactic space tourism business), the Lunar X Prize (leading to Beresheet), the International Space University(, SEDS ( and more.

    1. Alan_Peery

      Peter Diamandis -- worth a study

      Attribution fixed, thanks editor.

      Peter Diamandis is still worth a listen to, even if he didn't give the summary/eulogy above. :-)

  21. Often Confused

    Not only in the woods

    There is now beresheet on the moon too....

    1. John 62

      Re: Not only in the woods

      The hebrew is בְּרֵאשִׁית

      'beresheet' is the polite anglicised version: the yud (י) can also be transliterated as i

  22. red floyd

    SpaceX also recovered the payload fairing for reuse.

    1. lowwall

      Payload Fairings also recovered

      Indeed. They gave up on Mr. Stevens and the giant butterfly net though. Instead they made it saltwater corrosion-resistant and pluck them from the sea. Each fairing half has avionics so it knows and can report where it is, thrusters for (presumably) attitude correction and perhaps some guidance and parachutes that allow it to land it fairly gently in the ocean.

      Musk tweeted that they are going to reuse them on a Starlink flight this year. Starlink is SpaceX's own planned constellation of mini-sats that will provide global internet access. It's a nice way to demonstrate reusability of the fairings without having to deal with an external customer.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Called it

    SO may reasons this wasn't a landing by Israel...

    SO you know it was going to fail...then it does.

    We need a successor to Honkler already now...

  24. briesmith

    It's just the important bits, Sir.

    Why do all these projects fail when push comes to shove?

    They always fail at a transition point; all the stuff in between, the flying around making a lot smoke and noise stuff, is always OK. But try and change flight profile and bang; it's crashed.

    The answer is obvious; just point the noisy, smokey things straight up and fire them off. We can then watch them for the next 40 years as they very slowly, very slowly indeed, exit the Solar System.

    Basically, I'm asking, "What's the point"? It's all so marginal. They are sphincter rending dangerous. They can't carry anything. They can't bring anything back. They are snailish slow. And they cost a fortune. The Celts had the common sense not to try and build a trans-Atlantic shipping industry based on coracles. Why are we so much more stupid?

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