The spacecraft experienced a failure of its main engine just seconds before it was expected to reach the lunar surface. "We had a failure of the spacecraft, we have not landed successfully," explained a spokesman from a deflated Mission Control in Yehud, Israel. A problem with the spacecraft's engine was reported at 3:24 p.m. ET and communication with Beresheet was lost.
Before the mission's failure, Beresheet snapped a selfie as it approached the lunar surface.
The unmanned spacecraft would have taken Israel into an exclusive club of space-exploring nations. Only three countries – the U.S., the Soviet Union and China – have made successful ‘soft landings’ on the lunar surface.
Israel, however, is one of just seven countries to have orbited the Moon, thanks to the Beresheet mission.
"Beresheet came the closest Israel ever has to land on the moon, but unfortunately the landing was not completed successfully. We applaud @TeamSpaceIL for a tremendous scientific achievement, they made history by making Israel one of 7 nations who had ever orbited the moon," tweeted the Israeli government.
Beresheet, which is Hebrew for “in the beginning,” was developed by the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL and the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries.
"Don’t stop believing! We came close but unfortunately didn’t succeed with the landing process," tweeted SpaceIL.
Beresheet was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Feb. 21.