Thursday, April 11, 2019

So Near And Yet So Far

One selfie from Bereshit before we lost communication. 
This was supposed to be my Reasons 2B Cheerful post for this week. I had it all planned and was rehearsing the words in my head as I settled down to watch live coverage of the Beresheet moon landing.

Today at Ben Gurion Airport, the arrivals boards were announcing MOON at 22.00 (time not finalized).

All over the country there were big screens set up with hundreds of people watching together. President Rivlin had 200 children in the President's residency, face-painting, doing crafts and watching at the same time. The Cinemateque in Jerusalem and the Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv to name two more.

We watched at home. I put it on the big TV for full effect. Opher Doron, one of the engineers at SpaceIL, explained what was going to happen. The spacecraft was approaching the moon. They were controlling the engines to get it into position. DD was in her bedroom.

Me: DD! DD! Come and watch the moon landing.
DD: No! I'm Busy!
Me: Come on! It's historical!
DD comes running down the corridor.
DD: Why is it hysterical?
Me: Historical not hysterical.
DD: Oh, I only came because I thought it was going to be funny.

However, she stayed as we both got drawn into the excitement. They hyped it up. "Israel, the small country with big dreams, is only the fourth country in the world to land on the moon."

"In one minute the spacecraft will decide for itself whether the landing conditions are favourable and then it's on its own. We will have passed the point of no return." They explained that if Beresheet decides to abort the landing it will continue to orbit the moon and we can try again in another four hours.

Suddenly they announced: "we have passed the point of no return, the landing process has started." We all clapped. The scientists, the dignitaries, Bibi and Sara Netanyahu, me and DD.

But then things began to go wrong. "We've lost telemetry." (He pronounced it te-LE-metry. I thought he said that they've lost the lemon tree.) Then they regained telemetry (or the lemon tree) and we were back in business.

"The breaking mechanism is in full process, the spacecraft is doing everything it's supposed to do at this moment."

Pure joy when Beresheet sent a selfie from the backside of the moon. There was the Israeli flag just short of the moon in the background. Am Yisrael Chai (The people of Israel Live - it's a message to Hitler et al.) and Small Country, Big Dreams in English. Lots of frenzied clapping.

The excitement was rising but then, "We seem to have a problem with the main engine."

"The main engine is back on." We all clapped again with relief. "But it's not, no no, it's not....."

And finally. "The main engine is back on but we have lost communication with the spacecraft. We are trying to get it back...... No, we've lost communication."

It was all over. Less than seven minutes to go and only a few kilometres from the moon's surface. The stats said 15 km but Opher said 41 km so I'm not sure exactly. Either way, it's nearer than Tel Aviv from Jerusalem.

They tried to put a positive spin on it. "We are the seventh country to orbit the moon and the fourth country to reach the moon (but not land safely - is what he meant).

As my friend Jonny put it, Israeli drivers eh? Israel is the first country to crash on the moon. And now I'm going to bed, tired and bitterly disappointed.


  1. Oh dear - I only saw the bit about it landing on one of the news screens at the subway on the way home tonight so I thought everything had gone well. At least you still have your sense of humour!

    1. Yes, and y health. As long as you've got your health.... Actually, the only good thing about this failed mission is that there were no astronauts inside. Last time is was tragic, this time it's just disappointing.

  2. I am sorry it didn't quite work out. That last sentence made me laugh though!

    1. There was a tweet that said, "Proof you shouldn't take a selfie whilst driving." As Margie above pointed out, at least we retained our humour.