NASA isn't the only space agency trying to land on the moon
NASA isn't the only space agency trying to land on the moon
6:56

NASA isn't the only space agency trying to land on the moon

Science
Tonight, after years of development and almost two months hurtling through space, Israel's Beresheet Moon lander has come painfully close to landing on the Moon before crashing out. So what went wrong? Why did Israel wanna go to the Moon in the first place? And 50 years after Apollo, why are there still only a handful of countries who've joined the Moon landing club? That's gotta be the ultimate in sorry, you can't sit with us. I'm Claire Riley for CNet. Welcome to Watch This Space. [MUSIC] From the CNet studios in Sidney, this is your guide to everything on Earth you need to know about space. And tonight, half a century after the original space race, Israel has just missed out on joining the Moon Club. Damn, I heard those guys have really sweet jackets. If you got your space education from Hollywood, then you might be surprised to know that space isn't purely the domain of patriotic Americans and the occasional sexy British man remarkably unaffected by microgravity. In fact, if you play in the NBA, you might be surprised to learn that humans have been to space in the first place. Moon landing deniers. Thanks for tuning in. I look forward to reading your comments. Now it's not just America getting off this planet. Space has become a veritable United Nations of countries, blasting off to explore the great beyond. Japan has its Hayabusa asteroid lander. Europe has its ExoMars mission. And Canada has renowned astronaut and three-time cover model of Moustache Magic magazine, Chris Hadfield. But when it comes to spacecraft landing on the moon, only three countries have ever successfully completed soft landings. And only the US has astronauts on to the surface. The Soviet Union came first, with a soft landing of the unmanned Lunar 9, in 1966. Then the US sent the unmanned Surveyor 1 for a touchdown, just a few months later. Then the two countries spent the next five decades, shooting stuff up there, like it was discount night at the hillbilly firework store. In 2013, China became only the 3rd country to land successfully on the moon. Other nations have made it to the surface of the moon. But these have been more of an intentionally crash kind of way, rather than taking the approach of, let's peacefully touch down and send out a cute little robot. But why should a few countries get all the fun? Surely there's plenty of moon pie to go around. And to Israel and the bear-shaped moon lander. Named after the Hebrew word for Genesis, no doubt in a nod to Israel's huge Phil Collins fan base, Parachute was the first privately funded mission to launch to the moon. It was the smallest land by wait and he traveled the longest distance out of any moon landing on its way to the lunar surface. It was the baby of Israeli not for profit space I held a space company formed in 2011 in response to Google's Lunar X PRIZE competition. The competition challenged private companies to build a robotic spacecraft to go to the moon and send back images and videos from it's surface. The competition was ultimately cancelled, but the folks at SpaceAL were all guys, we've got a half-finished moon robot over here, we're not stopping. And their work eventually led to Berosheet. But while bare sheet ticked off a lot of firsts including being the first privately funded moon lander to successfully into lunar orbit it missed a really important achievement now i'm not talking about best mission logo that honor clearly goes to the university of Kansas medical center and their experiment that tested the motility of bull sperm in space yes that patch is both real and ridiculous. Anyway, Beresheet missed one important milestone on its mission to land on the moon, mainly the landing part. After launching on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on February 22nd, 2019, Beresheet entered an elliptical orbit around Earth, gradually slingshotting closer and closer to the men, before entering the moon's orbit at the start of APril. But on landing day, while Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu watched on and the entire Space IL team waited with bated breath, the main engine cut out and mission control communication but not before capturing this incredibly bittersweet selfie on its way down to the surface. The heartbreak back on the ground was palpable. But damn if you can't commend their spirit. Mars Khan, an Israeli entrepreneur who provided a large pot of [INAUDIBLE] shades financial backing probably put it best. Well, we didn't make it. But, we definitely tried and I think the achievement of getting to where we got is really tremendous. I think we can be proud. [APPLAUSE] And he's right. The real moon were the friends they made along the way. Because while images of lunar landing are pretty much burned into our bones they're really really difficult in the early days of space exploration the US and Soviet space programs were peppered with failures launch failures space craft failures lost of contact and spectacular crash landings Things have gone more smoothly in recent years but only 12 people have ever walked on the moon's surface. All of the male astronauts from America hashtag diversity. Since the last manned mission to lunar surface in 1972, the moon club has kind of been a Destiny's Child situation. Many countries has been on the outer but there's only three core members that you care about. Beyond the United States, Russia and China, but let's not discount the other countries who provided backing vocals in the rights to the moon. Japan sent its first Orbiter Mission in 1990. The European Space Agency has also orbiting the moon and the Indian Space Research Organization has sent its own orbiters. And even a moon impact probe to crash into the surface and stir up debris to be analyzed for the presence of ice and water. So if all of these countries can't be the first to land on the moon or be the first to send astronauts there, why bother at all apart from the sweet jackets they get obviously. Well there's a few reasons. Firstly, there is a national pride to consider. But beyond that, when a country launches a space program, it's also a great chance to develop new technologies and advance innovation. And it's not like the moon is done offering up new information. There's still so much we don't know. And every mission pushes us further into new realms of scientific discovery. SpaceIL and Beresheet were hoping to prove that you didn't need to be America or Russia to get a mission into space. And they're not done. The first Beresheet mission might have failed in the final moments. But less than a week after this heartbreak, SpaceIL announced it would be having another crack with Beresheet 2.0 And let's hope that this is just the beginning. I want to see Israel stick a lunar landing. I want to see Indian astronauts walk on the surface of the moon. And so help me I want a bloody Australian mission to the moon. Or like we like to call it down under old mate night rock. All right, that's it for this week's edition of Watch This Space. If you've enjoyed our program, then be sure to click the like button on your remote, and subscribe to get more space news as it happens. I'm Claire Riley for CNET, goodnight and Godspeed. [MUSIC]

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