It’s only been a few months since Israel’s nonprofit space group SpaceIL attempted a soft landing on the Moon. It would have been an extraordinary accomplishment, and the first privately-funded lunar landing ever, but it didn’t exactly go as planned. The lander crashed, and SpaceIL pledged to try again. Now, it’s backtracking on that pledge and deeming the Moon not worthy of its efforts. Odd.
In a tweet sent out by SpaceIL, the group revealed that it’s not targeting the Moon for its next attempt, despite saying so in the wake of its previous try. It’s strange, but things became even more bizarre when the company released a statement on its decision.
As the Associated Press reports, the company’s statement not only hails its crash landing on the Moon as “an exceptional success” but goes on to call a second Moon landing attempt “not enough of a challenge.”
Okay, let’s take a step back here.
SpaceIL’s Beresheet spacecraft broke a number of records during its journey. The scientists behind the mission did an incredible job and managed to send the lander to the Moon at a bare minimum of expense while pioneering new techniques along the way. That’s all fantastic, and the team should be commended.
But Beresheet was a lunar lander, and it never landed. It crashed. An errant “manual command” is said to have caused the spacecraft to shut down at the worst possible moment, and by the time it was fired back up it was already too close to the lunar surface and moving too fast to prevent a collision. It didn’t accomplish its ultimate goal, no matter how you frame it.
The group hasn’t offered any concrete information on what it actually plans to do next now that it has canceled its Moon plans, but it’s more than a little silly to suggest that returning to the Moon would somehow be so easy that it’s not worthy of SpaceIL’s time. Saying so is foolish, and it’s a bit of a slap in the face to other scientists and engineers who not only sent spacecraft to the Moon, but actually landed them.
In any case, SpaceIL has kind of dug itself into a hole here, and whatever it chooses to do next better be truly incredible, lest the group look even more silly than it already does.