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Billionaire plans second mission to the moon for Israel

By Allen Cone
Billionaire plans second mission to the moon for Israel
Israel Aerospace Industries released a photo showing the moon taken by the Beresheet spacecraft before it crashed in the lunar surface on Thursday. Photo courtesy Israel Aerospace Industries/EPA

April 14 (UPI) -- Billionaire Morris Kahn has announced plans for a second attempt to successfully land a spacecraft, Beresheet 2, on the moon for Israel -- a project that might take two years.

On Saturday, the SpaceIL chairman said on Channel 12's Meet the Press, "we started something and we need to finish it. We'll put our flag on the moon."

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The 5-foot-tall Beresheet 1, the world's first privately funded moon lander, crashed into the moon while attempting a landing Thursday. Apparently, a technical glitch caused its main engine to stop mid-landing.

Beresheet, whose name means "in the beginning" in Hebrew, was launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in February. For the next six weeks, it pushed its orbit slowly outward. On April 4, Beresheet was captured by lunar gravity.

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Israel became just the seventh nation to put a probe in orbit around the moon.

It would take about two or three years to get another prototype ready for a moon landing, SpaceIL co-founder Yariv Bash said, according to the Times of Israel.

Kahn, who was born in South Africa, said work on the new spacecraft would begin Sunday.

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"The response we've gotten has been amazing. The amount of thank yous and letters is amazing," he said. "Over the weekend I've had time to think about what happened, and the truth is seeing all the encouragement and support from people all over the world is amazing.

"It gave me time to think and I thought it would be a shame to leave things like that. I've come to announce a new project: Beresheet 2."

Kahn said a mission team will be meeting Sunday "to start work."

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After the TV show, he shared a video on Twitter in which he said: "We're going to complete the mission."

Kahn paid for about 40 percent of the $100 million to build and launch the original spacecraft, Space.com reported.

The project was a joint venture between his Israeli nonprofit and Israel Aerospace Industries, funded almost entirely by private donations from well-known Jewish philanthropists, including Kahn, Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, Lynn Schusterman.

"I'm ready to work for this and do whatever is takes for this project to move forward," Kahn said. "This is also a good lesson for the youth. I said that if you fail you need to get up and try again and this is an example I have to give them."

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Channel 12 reported the Israeli government would back the project to some extent.

Engineers were still studying what led to the crash of the first spacecraft.

The main engine cut off about above the moon's surface and the spacecraft could not properly brake in time to make a gentle landing.

"We didn't reach the moon in one piece," Opher Doron, the general manager of the Israel Aerospace Industries' space division, said. "That sucks. However, engineering and science are hard. Sometimes it doesn't work the first time, sometimes it doesn't work the second or third time. But it will work."

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