Israeli spacecraft crashes onto moon after technical failures

People watch a screen showing explanations of the landing of Israeli spacecraft, Beresheet's, at the Planetaya Planetarium in the Israeli city of Netanya, on April 11, 2019 before it crashed during the landing. (AFP / JACK GUEZ)
Updated 12 April 2019
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Israeli spacecraft crashes onto moon after technical failures

  • Beresheet would have been the first craft to land on the moon that was not the product of a government program
  • So far, only the US, the Soviet Union and China have succeeded in carrying out a controlled landing on the lunar surface

YEHUD, Israel: Israeli spacecraft Beresheet crashed onto the moon on Thursday after a series of technical failures during its final descent, shattering hopes of a historic controlled landing on the lunar surface.
The unmanned robotic lander suffered periodic engine and communications failures during the landing sequence, which lasted around 21 minutes, the support team said.
Beresheet, whose name is Hebrew for the biblical phrase ‘In the beginning’, had traveled through space for seven weeks in a series of expanding orbits around Earth before crossing into the moon’s gravity last week.
The final maneuver on Wednesday brought it into a tight elliptical orbit around the moon, around 15 km (9 miles) from the surface at its closest. From there it was a short, nail-biting and ultimately disappointing conclusion.
“It seems that a failure in our inertial measurements unit caused a chain of events in the spacecraft avionics which cut off the engines and caused us to lose the mission,” said Opher Doron, general manager of the space division at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
So far, only three nations have succeeded in carrying out a “soft,” or controlled, landing on the lunar surface: the United States, the Soviet Union and China.
Beresheet would have been the first craft to land on the moon that was not the product of a government program. It was built by state-owned IAI and Israeli non-profit space venture SpaceIL with $100 million funded almost entirely by private donors.
Still, the spacecraft achieved some milestones.
“It is by far the smallest, the cheapest spacecraft ever to get to the moon,” said Doron. “It’s been an amazing journey, I hope we get a chance for another one.”
Shaped like a round table with four carbon-fiber legs, Beresheet stood about 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) tall. It blasted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on Feb. 21 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and entered Earth’s orbit about 34 minutes after launch.
Its circuitous flight path was around 4 million miles (6.5 million km). A direct route from the Earth to the moon covers roughly 240,000 miles (386,000 km).

 


Dutch arrest suspected Syrian militant commander: prosecutor

Updated 21 May 2019
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Dutch arrest suspected Syrian militant commander: prosecutor

THE HAGUE: Dutch police on Tuesday arrested a Syrian asylum seeker suspected of committing war crimes as a commander of the Al-Nusra Front militant group, prosecutors said.
The 47-year-old man, identified only by his nom de guerre Abu Khuder, was detained in Kapelle in the southwestern Netherlands, the Dutch federal prosecutor said.
“The man is accused of participating in the armed struggle as a commander or a terrorist Jabhat Al-Nusra battalion,” the prosecutor said in a statement, using another name for the Al-Nusra front.
It said he was held “on suspicion of committing war crimes and terrorist crimes in Syria,” adding that he had fought in a battalion known as Ghuraba’a Mohassan (Strangers of Mohassan).
The arrested Syrian has lived in the Netherlands since 2014 and was granted a temporary asylum permit, the statement said.
Police searched the suspect’s house and recovered documents, a computer and a smartphone, it said, adding that he was due to appear in court on Friday.
He was arrested based on information provided by German police, where six homes belonging to suspected members of the same battalion were raided, it added.
German police “provided witness testimonies against the suspect,” the Dutch prosecutor said.
The Al-Nusra Front was allied to Al-Qaeda but renounced ties to the group. Under a new name, it now dominates the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which holds administrative control of the Syrian city of Idlib.
The arrest of the Syrian comes as the Netherlands grapples with the problem of what to do with home-grown radicals who went to fight in Syria.
At least 315 people left the Netherlands since the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011 to join militant groups, according to Dutch media reports quoting official figures.
Around 85 have been killed in the fighting and 55 have returned.
The issue was highlighted in March when the Dutch husband of a British-born teenager who fled to join Daesh said he wanted her to live with him in the Netherlands along with their child.