Beresheet, the Israeli moon spacecraft, which was the first privately-funded mission to the moon, on Thursday narrowly missed out a historic attempt to land on the lunar surface after the rover lost its main engine while attempting a soft landing.
Beresheet was developed by SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries. If the mission had been completed successfully, Israel would have been the fourth country, after the Soviet Union, the United States and China, to land a spacecraft on the moon.
As it was preparing to land, the technical problems occurred during the final moments of flight, as communications were lost with the spacecraft just long enough for the braking process to fail, and the rover crashed on the lunar surface.
After initiating the landing protocol, tensions were high in the SpaceIL control room near Tel Aviv when they said that it had lost contact with one of the landing detectors when the moon rover was just less than 10 kilometres from the lunar surface, Haaretz reported.
"According to all the signs, we won't be the fourth country to land on the moon. We were very close to the moon. We're on the moon, just not how we wanted. We'll check it again and try to understand what happened," the control room said.
Beresheet was successfully launched on February 22 and entered lunar orbit on April 4. The spacecraft had included plans to measure the Moon's local magnetic field and was carrying a laser retroreflector and a digital "time capsule".
In the final hours before landing, Beresheet's flight engineers found a flat surface where the spacecraft could land safely at a time when the moon's surface was not scorching hot due to the sun's exposure.
The moon rover had travelled more than 3.4 million miles in its orbits around the earth and completed another 1 million miles around the moon's surface.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was tracking the spacecraft's movement from the control room, said that his country will continue its efforts to try landing successfully on the lunar surface.
"Israel will land on the moon!" promised a determined Netanyahu.
SpaceIL was established in 2011 when it competed in the Google Lunar X Prize contest to land a spacecraft on the Moon.
Beresheet was the first Israeli spacecraft developed by the company to travel beyond Earth's orbit and would have been the first private lander on the moon had the mission became successful.