Newly re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu watched as a 1,300-pound robot, known as “Beresheet” lost contact with mission control. A second later, the robot crashed into the Moon on April 11 after a technical glitch caused the main engine to malfunction.
Beresheet was able to restart the engine successfully but by the time it as functioning again it was just feet above the ground. It was too late to escape the impact, as it may have traveled at speeds of 2,000 miles per hour. The world’s first private moon mission ended in a crash that left wreckage strewn for many miles.
— SPACE.com (@SPACEdotcom) April 15, 2019
The Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL, with help from SpaceX and their Falcon 9 rocket, launched Beresheet on February 21. The dishwasher-sized robot carried a “Lunar Library” intended as a backup of human knowledge in the event that civilization on Earth is wiped out. It is unclear if the archive spanning 5,000 years of human knowledge and containing 30-million pages survived the impact. It is comprised of a group of DVD-sized nickel disks.
The Arch Mission Foundation, a Los-Angeles based group responsible for the library noted:
“We have either installed the first library on the moon, or we have installed the first archaeological ruins of early human attempts to build a library on the moon.”
The archive was meant as a way to jumpstart civilization essentially from scratch.
From Tech Crunch:
“The data was kept on one of the Arch Mission Foundation’s tiny, high-capacity, high-endurance archival devices, meant to act as libraries or time capsules in a variety of sci-fi-sounding scenarios, like extraterrestrial visits or the near-extinction of humans. They’re ‘nearly indestructible,’ and one was on Beresheet.”
The Lunary Library contained a wide variety of information including copies of the Bible, drawings from Israeli schoolchildren, English Wikipedia, The Wearable Rosetta, The Israeli Time Capsule, a selection of books — “and potentially all or some of the not-yet-announced secret Vaults of content.”
Among the stranger information stored on the disks is “secret magic techniques” from David Copperfield, who says he is proud to land “magic on the Moon.”
“When I was introduced to the Arch Mission Foundation, I was immediately enamored with the mission to preserve our civilization, and the possibilities of what we might do together,” Copperfield said in a press release.
“One of my heroes is George Méliès, one of the fathers of modern cinema and also a great magician,” continued Copperfield. “His most famous movie was ‘A Trip to the Moon,’ which in 1902 visualized people landing on the Moon. It inspired a generation of scientists to actually achieve it, and 70 years later we actually landed on the Moon. Now 50 years later, we’re landing magic on the Moon. We’re bringing it full circle and I find that kind of poetic.”
Beresheet was named after a biblical reference meaning “in the beginning” or “Genesis” in Hebrew. The mission was backed by $100 million in private funding in the hopes that Israel would become the fourth nation to successfully land a spacecraft on the Moon. Thousands of people donated to the mission after the idea was hatched by computer engineer Yariv Bashin in 2010.
Although it crashed, the mission achieved some new impressive goals. Beresheet was the smallest, cheapest spaceship to successfully achieve lunar orbit using its own engines over a seven-week orbit of the Earth. During that time it orbited the Earth three times until it achieved a high-enough altitude to reach the Moon.
The day of the crash, the feeling at mission control was one of disappointment, but Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately signaled that Beresheet was just the beginning.
“If at first, you don’t succeed, try again,” Netanyahu said.
Right before the system malfunction, Beresheet transmitted one final photo from a distance of 14 miles above the Moon. The photograph shows the gold metallic spacecraft and the Israeli flag with the slogan “Small Country, Big Dreams.” A second later, it impacted the Moon’s surface.
Futurist entrepreneur, Nova Spivack of the Arch Mission Foundation is one of the people involved in the Lunar Library project. He shared his thoughts about the crashed spacecraft on Twitter. He believes the library survived the crash.
“When you look at the Moon from now on – realize there is a lost library there – containing Wikipedia, 30,000 books, 5000 languages, the history of the world, David Copperfield’s secrets, and much more ..”
When you look at the Moon from now on – realize there is a lost library there – containing Wikipedia, 30,000 books, 5000 languages, the history of the world, David Copperfield’s secrets, and much more … #findthelunarlibrary @archmission #livetheimpiossible
— Nova Spivack (@novaspivack) April 16, 2019
Spivack said he could check off one item on his bucket list.
Bucket List Item Completed: Crashing a Library on the Moon
— Nova Spivack (@novaspivack) April 12, 2019
The Arch Mission Foundation also shared a post, indicating the library might have been thrown for kilometers but may have survived the impact. The “30 million page frisbee” was designed to withstand the harsh conditions in space.
The landing was a little bumpier than expected, but airplane black boxes survive stronger impacts, and our disc is less breakable. Small, light objects, like our 100 gram library, do better in impacts. It was probably thrown a few km away – a 30 million page frisbee on the moon.
— Arch Mission Foundation (@archmission) April 12, 2019
The foundation also showed the location where they believe the archive is now resting. It was scheduled to touch down in the Mare Serenitatis, or Sea of Serenity, on April 11, 2019.
— Arch Mission Foundation (@archmission) April 12, 2019
Just two days after the failed landing, SpaceIL announced they will send another lander called Beresheet 2.0. Philanthropist and billionaire businessman, Morris Kahn, President of SpaceIL, made an optimistic statement via Twitter, indicating they would complete the mission they started.
“We’re going to actually build a new halalit — a new spacecraft,” Kahn said in a video statement posted on Twitter by SpaceIL. “We’re going to put it on the moon, and we’re going to complete the mission.”
— Israel To The Moon (@TeamSpaceIL) April 13, 2019
Now there is also a push for a LEGO-sized model of Beresheet as well. SpaceIL hopes to inspire young people everywhere as they reach for the Moon.
— Ruth's-Starring Tovah Feldshuh (@RuthsFilm) April 15, 2019
You can see the live broadcast before Beresheet struck the Moon below.
Featured image: Screenshot via YouTube