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Israel’s failed Beresheet lander might fly again, at least in spirit

Published Jul 9th, 2019 3:32PM EDT
beresheet firefly

The strange, sad saga of Israel’s Beresheet lunar lander is a bizarre one. The spacecraft, which embarked on the first privately-funded Moon landing mission, failed to stick its landing and was completely destroyed. Now, after a couple of dramatic twists, it seems that at least part of the lander will have a second chance to complete its mission.

As The Verge reports, a US company called Firefly Aerospace is teaming up with Israel Aerospace Industries to hash out plans for an entirely new lunar lander based on parts of the Beresheet spacecraft. It’s not exactly a do-over, but it’s as close as Beresheet is likely to get.

SpaceIL, the company behind the first Beresheet mission, was well on its way to becoming the first private group to perform a soft landing on the lunar surface. An errant command ultimately doomed Beresheet, shutting down its engines, and by the time the spacecraft was rebooted, it was already too close to the surface to save itself from impact.

SpaceIL almost immediately declared it would try again, launching another Beresheet to accomplish the task its predecessor couldn’t. Months later, SpaceIL walked back that pledge, deeming a Moon landing to be “not enough of a challenge.”

The primary contractor that worked on Beresheet was Israel Aerospace Industries, and it seems that if SpaceIL doesn’t want to launch a Beresheet-2 mission, the company is perfectly happy to build something similar for a different partner. In this case, that partner is startup Firefly Aerospace.

Firefly is vying for a shot from NASA to be one of nine companies to test a variety of lunar lander designs. It hasn’t scored approval yet, but perhaps adopting the semi-proven spacecraft design of Beresheet will work in the company’s favor. If it gets approval, the company’s lander will be called Genesis, and it will fly on a not-yet-built rocket platform that will also be designed by Firefly.

Yes, there’s a lot of “ifs” here, but if everything goes according to plan, some small part of Beresheet will live on in a new form.

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