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SpaceIL chief: ‘Beresheet 2 starts tomorrow; we’ll put our flag on the Moon’

Following the Israeli spacecraft Beresheet’s failure to land safely on the Moon this week, SpaceIL chairman Morris Kahn on Saturday announced he was launching project Beresheet 2, effective immediately, adding: “We started something and we need to finish it. We’ll put our flag on the Moon.”

Following his announcement, Israel Aerospace Industries, which partnered on Beresheet, said it would gladly take part in future SpaceIL ventures.

Kahn provided a large chunk of the $100 million (NIS 370 million) required to build and launch the spacecraft — a novel approach that came at a fraction of the cost of previous, state-funded efforts to land on the Moon.

The project was a joint venture between the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries, funded almost entirely by private donations from well-known Jewish philanthropists, including Kahn, Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, Lynn Schusterman, and others.

Following the Beresheet crash, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to indicate that the government would support a follow-up endeavor.

Unidentified government sources told Channel 12 on Saturday the government would back the project, though it was not clear to what extent.

“We’re not counting on support from the government,” Kahn said. “If they help, good, but we’re counting on the public.”

SpaceIL co-founder Yariv Bash said it would take about two or three years to get another prototype ready for a Moon landing.

Opher Doron, the general manager of the Israel Aerospace Industries’ space division, which collaborated on building the spacecraft, said engineers were still studying the problem that led to the crash.


Image: Alexander Friedman, left, directs a control room of 25 Israeli scientists monitoring the “Beresheet” satellite as it makes its way to the Moon.

The much-vaunted Beresheet was maneuvering its way onto the Moon’s surface at 10:25 p.m. Israel time on Thursday when it lost power and went into a free-fall. Among the Jewish symbols and treasures packed onto the craft was a “Chitas,” an acronym that stands for the Chumash (The Five Book of Moses), King David’s Psalms (Tehillim) and the Tanya(Chabad’s foundational work). The trilogy that includes the Tanya is held closely to the hearts of many, especially followers of Judaism’s esoteric teachings.