Archive for May 30th, 2019

Israeli spacecraft crashes during moon landing: mission control

By Stephen Weizman

Jerusalem (AFP)

April 11, 2019

Israel’s attempt at a moon landing failed at the last minute on Thursday when the craft suffered an engine failure as it prepared to land and apparently crashed onto the lunar surface.

“We didn’t make it, but we definitely tried,” project originator and major backer Morris Kahn said in a live videocast from mission control near Tel Aviv.

“I think that the achievement of getting to where we got is really tremendous, I think we can be proud,” he said.

During the broadcast, control staff could be heard saying that engines meant to slow the craft’s descent and allow a soft landing had failed and contact with it had been lost.

“We are on the moon but not in the way we wanted,” one unidentified staffer said.

“We are the seventh country to orbit the moon and the fourth to reach the moon’s surface,” said another.

Only Russia, the United States and China have made the 384,000-kilometre (239,000-mile) journey and landed safely on the Moon.

“If at first you don’t succeed, you try again,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the control room, where he had been watching along with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

“We reached the moon but we’d like to land more comfortably,” he added. “That will be for the next attempt.”

The 585-kilogram (1,290-pound) unmanned spacecraft named Beresheet, which means “Genesis” in Hebrew, resembles a tall, oddly shaped table with round fuel tanks under the top.

Israeli NGO SpaceIL and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the project’s two main partners, have described it as the “world’s first spacecraft built in a non-governmental mission”.

Khan, a philanthropist and chairman of SpaceIL, put up $40 million of the project’s $100 million budget.

Other partners who joined later are from “the private sector, government and academia,” according to the IAI website.

Just before the landing attempt Netanyahu said that he was thinking about initiating a national space project.

“I am seriously considering investing in a space program,” he said in the webcast.

“It has national implications for Israel and implications for humanity.”

The country’s president, Reuven Rivlin, viewed the broadcast with 80 middle school space buffs at his official Jerusalem residence, his office said in a statement.

“We are full of admiration for the wonderful people who brought the spacecraft to the moon,” he said after the crash. “True, not as we had hoped, but we will succeed in the end. This is a great achievement that we have not yet completed.”

Although the journey is 384,000 kilometers, Beresheet will have traveled a total of 6.5 million kilometers due to a series of orbits.

It was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on February 22 with a Falcon 9 rocket from Elon Musk’s private US-based SpaceX company.

Its speed has reached 10 kilometers per second, (36,000 kilometers per hour).

The one-way trip was to have included an attempt to measure the lunar magnetic field, which would have helped understanding of the moon’s formation.

– Google prize –

The project began as part of the Google Lunar XPrize, which in 2010 offered $30 million in awards to encourage scientists and entrepreneurs to come up with relatively low-cost moon missions.

Although the Google prize expired in March without a winner, Israel’s team pledged to push forward.

The Israeli mission came amid renewed global interest in the moon, 50 years after American astronauts first walked on its surface.

China’s Chang’e-4 made the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon on January 3, after a probe sent by Beijing made a lunar landing elsewhere in 2013.

US President Donald Trump’s administration announced in March it was speeding up plans to send American astronauts back to the moon, bringing forward the target date from 2028 to 2024.

India hopes to become the next lunar country in the spring with its Chandrayaan-2 mission. It aims to put a craft with a rover onto the moon’s surface to collect data.

Japan plans to send a small lunar lander, called SLIM, to study a volcanic area around 2020-2021.

The United States remains the only country to have walked on the moon, with 12 astronauts having taken part in six missions between 1969 and 1972.

Source: Moon Daily.

Link: http://www.moondaily.com/reports/Israeli_spacecraft_crashes_during_moon_landing_mission_control_999.html.

US says closing consulate in Jerusalem no policy shift

March 04, 2019

JERUSALEM (AP) — The United States has officially shuttered its consulate in Jerusalem, downgrading the status of its main diplomatic mission to the Palestinians by folding it into the U.S. Embassy to Israel.

For decades, the consulate functioned as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians. Now, that outreach will be handled by a Palestinian affairs unit, under the command of the embassy. The symbolic shift hands authority over U.S. diplomatic channels with the West Bank and Gaza to ambassador David Friedman, a longtime supporter and fundraiser for the West Bank settler movement and fierce critic of the Palestinian leadership.

The announcement from the State Department came early Monday in Jerusalem, the merger effective that day. “This decision was driven by our global efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our diplomatic engagements and operations,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement. “It does not signal a change of U.S. policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip.”

In a farewell video addressed to the consulate’s Palestinian partners, Consul General Karen Sasahara, who is leaving her post as the unofficial U.S. ambassador to the Palestinians and will not be replaced, maintains that new Palestinian unit at the embassy will carry forward the mission of the consulate, “in support of the strengthening of American-Palestinian ties, to boost economic opportunities for the Palestinians and facilitate cultural and educational exchanges.”

When first announced by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in October, the move infuriated Palestinians, fueling their suspicions that the U.S. was recognizing Israeli control over east Jerusalem and the West Bank, territories that Palestinians seek for a future state.

Palestinian official Saeb Erekat called the move “the final nail in the coffin” for the U.S. role in peacemaking. The downgrade is just the latest in a string of divisive decisions by the Trump administration that have backed Israel and alienated the Palestinians, who say they have lost faith in the U.S. administration’s role as a neutral arbiter in peace process.

Last year the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocated its embassy there, upending U.S. policy toward one of the most explosive issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians in turn cut off most ties with the administration.

The administration also has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, including assistance to hospitals and peace-building programs. It has cut funding to the U.N. agency that provides aid to Palestinians classified as refugees. Last fall, it shut down the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington.

The Trump administration has cited the reluctance of Palestinian leaders to enter peace negotiations with Israel as the reason for such punitive measures, although the U.S. has yet to present its much-anticipated but still mysterious “Deal of the Century” to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, announced last month that the U.S. would unveil the deal after Israeli elections in April. The Palestinian Authority has preemptively rejected the plan, accusing the U.S. of bias toward Israel.

AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.