After the Israeli starship Beresheet had not landed safely on the moon this week, SpaceIL chairman Morris Kahn announced that he would launch the Beresheet 2 project with immediate effect. He added, "We have started something and need to finish it. We set our flag on the moon. "
The small spacecraft, the world's first privately-funded lunar lander, plunged onto the lunar surface on Thursday night during a landing attempt, apparently due to a technical fault that caused the main engine to stop in the middle of the landing.
South African-born billionaire Kahn appeared on Channel 12's "Meet the Press" and said work on the successor to Beresheet would begin on Sunday.
"The answer we got was amazing. The amount of thank you and letters is incredible, "he said. "Over the weekend, I had time to think about what happened, and the truth is that all the encouragement and support of people around the world is amazing.
"It gave me time to think, and I thought it would be a shame to leave such things. I came to announce a new project: Beresheet 2. We started something and need to finish it. We set our flag on the moon.
He added, "The Beresheet 2 project will start tomorrow … A mission team will meet tomorrow to begin work.
Following his announcement, Israel Aerospace Industries, a Beresheet partner, said it would like to participate in future SpaceIL projects.
Kahn provided much of the $ 100 million ($ 370 million NIS) needed to build and launch the spacecraft – a novel approach that was at a fraction of the cost of previous state-sponsored moon landing efforts came.
The project was a joint venture between the Israeli nonprofit organization SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries, which was almost entirely funded by private donations by well-known Jewish philanthropists, including Kahn, Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, Lynn Schusterman and others.
The founders of SpaceIL said that one of the project's main goals is space education and encouraging children to get involved
"I'm ready to work for and do whatever it takes to make this project progress," said Kahn. "This is also a good lesson for the youth. I said, if you fail, you have to get up and try again, and this is an example I must give them. "
For Beresheet 2, Kahn said the hope was to get the public to pay part of the cost through a crowdfunding campaign.
"We get the money from donors and the public," he said. "Everyone wants to participate. I received an offer from someone who is rich in the US and offered to pay a lot of money, but I think the money should come from the public. This should be a folk project.
After the Beresheet crash, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to point out that the government would support a follow-up project. Unidentified government sources told Channel 12 on Saturday that the government would support the project, although it was not clear to what extent.
"We do not expect government support," said Kahn. "If they help, well, but we count on the public."
Ehud Hayun, Aerospace Engineer at the IAI, said, "I'm not crushed, I'm disappointed, but I'm very proud of what we've achieved. We had much success on the way to the hard landing. We knew it was a risky mission and the risk we took to make it cheap and fast. But we tried.
SpaceIL co-founder Yariv Bash said it would take about two or three years to prepare another prototype for a moon landing.
Opher Doron, General Manager of the Israel Aerospace Industries Space Division, who helped build the spacecraft, said the engineers were still investigating the problem that was causing the crash. Currently, they believe that one of the telemetry measurements (altitude measurements) has failed, resulting in a chain of events that cut off the main engine about 10 kilometers above the lunar surface. Without the main engine, the spacecraft could not brake in time to reach a soft landing, but crashes into the moon on Thursday.
The co-founder of SpaceIL, Yonatan Winetraub, said in a press conference after the crash: "We have not reached the moon in one piece. That sucks. However, technology and science are tough. Sometimes it does not work the first time, sometimes the second or third time. But it will work.
Buzz Aldrin, the former astronaut and second man on the moon, tweeted his condolences to the team on Thursday, saying the project was "inspiring."
"Never lose hope – your hard work, teamwork and innovation are inspirational for everyone! he wrote.
Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.