An Israeli nonprofit will try again to land a robotic spaceship on the moon after its first attempt ended in a crash last year.
The spacecraft named Beresheet reached lunar orbit in April 2019, but crashed to the surface during its final descent.
On Wednesday, SpaceIL, the nonprofit, announced Beresheet 2, a follow-up that is said to be more complex – two landers plus an orbiter – though the organization says it fits into about the same budget as the first mission: about 100 US -Dollar million. Beresheet 2 is slated for release in the first half of 2024.
Beresheet means “Genesis” or “at the beginning” in Hebrew.
In an interview, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub, two of SpaceIL's founders, said they didn't want to just make a copy of the first attempt and run it.
"We want to do something unique that has never been done before," said Damari. “Don't just repeat the same mission and just change the ending. We want to do something that matters. "
The two landers would be much smaller than the first spaceship – about 260 pounds each with a full tank, compared to a little less than 1,300 pounds for Beresheet – and they would land on different parts of the moon. The orbiter would orbit the moon for at least a couple of years.
The three spacecraft of Beresheet 2 would weigh about 1,400 pounds together.
Although the designs were new, they would reuse many aspects of Beresheet, and the founders said they learned lessons that would increase the chances of success for the second attempt. SpaceIL will again partner with Israel Aerospace Industries, a major satellite manufacturer.
An investigation found that a component tracking the lander's alignment failed. When the heads of mission tried to reset this, they accidentally turned off the engine and the spaceship fell victim to its destruction.
Last May, NASA released a photo of their Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, showing the scar Beresheet had made on the moon.
SpaceIL hopes international partnerships will cover half the cost of Beresheet 2. Damari said the United Arab Emirates, a small but prosperous country in the Persian Gulf that has launched an ambitious space program in recent years, is one of seven nations interested in participating. He declined to name the other six.
"We're going to do something that will have a global impact," he said.
The Israeli space agency is likely to provide some funding. SpaceIL has to raise the rest from private donors.
Two of the greatest benefactors of the original Beresheet mission – Morris Kahn, a South African-Israeli billionaire who served as chairman of SpaceIL, and Sheldon G. Adelson, a casino magnate from Las Vegas – are not currently involved in Beresheet 2. Mr. Kahn initially said he would be contributing to a second SpaceIL moon shot.
SpaceIL started as one of the competitors in the Google Lunar X Prize competition, which raised $ 20 million for the first private company to gently land a spaceship on the moon. That endeavor proved to be more difficult than many expected, and none of the teams, including SpaceIL, were able to do it before the prize expired in late 2018.
Even without the potential financial reward, SpaceIL kept going, hoping it would inspire younger Israelis to pursue careers in science and technology.
The moon was at the center of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s, but was then largely ignored until recent years.
China has successfully landed three spacecraft there since 2013, including a mission this month to return stones from the moon for the first time since the Soviet Union's Luna robotic probe in 1976.
NASA also plans to send robotic missions to the moon and hire private companies to pick up payloads. This first commercial mission could start as early as next year.