Israel plans new moonshot after maiden mission fails

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People watch a screen showing an explanation of Beresheet's landing. PHOTO: AFP

JERUSALEM (REUTERS) - The aerospace company behind Israel's failed first moonshot said on Saturday (April 13) it would pursue a second mission with funds raised from private donors and the public.

The robot craft Beresheet, built by non-profit SpaceIL and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), crashed on its final descent on Thursday, dashing Israel's hope of becoming the fourth country to manage a controlled lunar landing.

"I have had time to think, over the weekend, about what happened, and given all of the encouragement I got, and the support from people all over the world I have come tonight to announce a new project - Beresheet 2," SpaceIL president and high-tech billionaire Morris Kahn told Israel's Channel 12 TV.

The maiden mission cost about US$100 million (S$135 millon), most of it raised from private donors like Kahn.

He said in the interview that Israeli government participation amounted to about US$3 million.

Private donors were already pledging funds for the new project, Kahn said, but he added that money should come from the public for "a project of the people of Israel".

"We will not rely on government support," he said.

The Beresheet 2 task force would convene on Sunday, he said: "We began something that we shall complete, and we will place our flag on the moon."

IAI said in a statement it would be happy to be part of further space missions in partnership with SpaceIL under Kahn's leadership".

So far, only three nations have succeeded in carrying out a controlled landing on the lunar surface - the United States, the Soviet Union and China.

Launched from Cape Canaveral on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket two months ago, Beresheet - Hebrew for "Genesis" or "In the beginning" - would have been the first craft to land on the moon that was not the product of a government programme.

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