SPACEIL–Breisheet: So Close! “We arrived (just not how) we wanted…”


We failed. But did we?

“We have a failure of the spacecraft. We unfortunately have not managed to land successfully,” Opher Doron, general manager of the Israel Aerospace Industries space program, said on the SpaceIL’s livestream of the landing attempt…”

“We are the seventh country to orbit the moon and the fourth to reach the moon’s surface,” Doron said. “It’s a tremendous achievement up to now…”

The only other countries to reach the lunar surface before Israel are the United States, Russia and China. No private entity has safely landed a spacecraft on the moon. (CNBC)

Oh my! I was sitting here this afternoon on pins and needles watching and hoping for this amazing project to succeed. I was furiously scribbling notes as the milestones passed:

  1. The Blessings from the dignitaries.
  2. The mention of a child, Petr Grinz who drew a fanciful image of what the moon looked like in 1942, before he perished in Auschwitz
  3. The memory of Ilan Ramon Z’L Israel’s first Space Shuttle Astronaut who perished in the Columbia Re-Entry Disaster on February 1, 2003
  4. The technical description of what was happening in real time, attempting to slow the spacecraft from 600 MPS to 0 MPS
  5. The firing of the main engines to “passing the point of no return (12:12 PDT)
  6. The first hints of trouble, the loss of telemetry from the spacecraft (12:20 PDT)
  7. The announcement of a problem with the main engine (12:22 PDT)
  8. The main engine reset (12:23 PDT)
  9. The announcement (12:25 PMay 15DT) that the spacecraft had crash-landed.

Not before taking a selfie from 22 KM above the moon on the landing attempt.


One the one hand I was filled with pride at the audacity of the attempt, then gasped when they announced a problem with the gyroscopes and the main engines and then saddened when the reality hit that the soft landing we were all hoping for did not come to pass.

In typical Sabra Engineer speak, “We landed, just not how we wanted.

I’m thinking back to October 30, 2018 when I attended a presentation about SpaceIL at the Addison-Penzak JCC in Los Gatos with Yonatan Weintraub where he took a selfie with me in the the audience and promised to include the selfie image on the DVR/time capsule attached to the lander’s body. I was going to the Moon (at least I thought)! I got there, just not in one piece, I suppose!

This morning, before the landing was attempted, someone posted the following from Ben Gurion Airport’s arrival screen. Note what was happening at 22:00


The sign says Flight “IAI BRSHT” from (destination) “The Moon” at 10 PM… “Lo Sofi” (not final). You get the idea…

In the end it was not about the politicians, it was about the hope. Nothing captures that hope and pride better than this, if you ask me!

I think President Ruby Rivlin said it best consoling the dozens of kids that were watching from the Beit HaNasi (The President’s Residence) in Jerusalem, “Don’t be disappointed. In 30-40 years you’ll be telling your kids where you were the night when Israel first tried to land on the Moon. We didn’t land ‘as we had wanted’ but it’s an amazing accomplishment, nonetheless. There’s nothing to be disappointed about…”

That’s leadership, friends! Not bloviating or chest thumping or crying “Why me?” or “It’s not fair” (or it’s a witch hunt, Mr. Trump). It’s a sense of the history of the moment and even when things don’t go our way, we have much to be proud of. It’s consoling and encouraging the children at the same time.

Listen to Rivlin leading the audience in singing “Hatikvah”, Israel’s National Anthem (1:20 in the video). In his own self-deprecating way just before he starts to sing he comments that he is (not) an “expert at singing…”

Next time, hopefully, the outcome will be different.

The day after according to SpaceIL:

“the spacecraft began to fall a free fall from a height of 10 kilometers, apparently at a speed of 400 to 500 km per hour until the loss of contact and apparently a crash on the moon.”

(the photo was taken from Genesis during the landing)

May 15th Postscript

NASA photographed the crash site of Israel’s failed moon lander, and it’s not pretty

September 6th Postscript
Chandrayaan-2 from India was next up, but it, too, apparently has crashed. This is hard stuff!  That looks like a nose dive to me! Bummer! 😦



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