Small lander on the surface of the Moon.

Artist's concept of Beresheet on the Moon. Credit: SpaceIL

Beresheet was Israel's first lunar mission and the first attempt by a private company to land on the Moon. The mission achieved lunar orbit, but was lost during an April 2019 landing attempt.

  • NASA had installed a small laser retroreflector aboard the lander to test its potential as a navigation tool.
  • Beresheet means ​"In the Beginning" in Hebrew.
Nation Israel
Objective(s) Lunar Landing
Spacecraft Beresheet
Spacecraft Mass 1,300 pounds (585 kilograms)
Mission Design and Management SpaceIL (Private Company) / Israeli Space Agency
Launch Date and Time Feb. 22, 2019 / 1:45 UT
Launch Vehicle SpaceX Falcon 9
Launch Site Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Scientific Instruments 1. Magnetometer
2. Laser Retroreflector

Beresheet was about 5 feet (1 meter) tall by 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) wide with its landing gear and legs deployed. The lander separated first from the rocket, taking the long route to the Moon to save fuel by employing gravitational forces to propel itself. Beresheet slowly widened an elliptical orbit around Earth until it was captured by the Moon's gravity and ultimately commanded to descend.

Beresheet attempted to touch down on April 11, 2019 in an ancient volcanic field known as the Sea of Serenity (Mare Serenitatis in Latin). NASA’s Apollo 17 astronauts landed near this region on Dec. 11, 1972. The team lost contact with the spacecraft shortly before expected touchdown.

Animated GIF showing Beresheet impact site.
Before and after comparison of the landing site created with Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images. It appears the spacecraft landed from the north on the rim of a small crater, about a few meters wide, leaving a dark "smudge" on Mare Serenitatis that’s elongated towards the south. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

"While NASA regrets the end of the SpaceIL mission without a successful lunar landing of the Beresheet lander, we congratulate SpaceIL, the Israel Aerospace Industries and the state of Israel on the incredible accomplishment of sending the first privately funded mission into lunar orbit," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said on April 11. "Every attempt to reach new milestones holds opportunities for us to learn, adjust and progress. I have no doubt that Israel and SpaceIL will continue to explore and I look forward to celebrating their future achievements."

SpaceIL was established in 2010 to tackle the Lunar X Prize, a competition sponsored by Google that challenged private companies to land a spacecraft on the Moon. Though no company was able to meet the competition deadline, prompting Google to end it with no winner in March 2018, the Israeli team pressed on.

Illustration showing Beresheet's winding trajectory to the Moon.
A graphic showing Beresheet's path to the Moon. Dates correspond with Israel Standard Time. Credit: SpaceIL

Additional Resources

  • National Space Science Data Center: Beresheet

Primary Sources

Shekhtman, Lonnie. "NASA is Aboard First Private Moon Landing Attempt." NASA Solar System Exploration,

"Update on First Private Robotic Spacecraft Attempt at Moon Landing.", 11 April 2019,

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