"We've landed, but not in the way we wanted to", Opher Doron, general manager of Israel Aerospace Industries, which assisted in building the vessel, informed a crowd of onlookers, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"An Israeli spacecraft will land on the moon, in two years, three years". Radio signals from the spacecraft flat-lined as the scheduled touchdown time came and went, leading engineers to assume that the small spacecraft was scattered in pieces after slamming into the landing site.
Israel's attempt at a moon landing failed at the last minute on Thursday when the craft suffered an engine failure as it prepared to land and apparently crashed onto the lunar surface. The engine lost power and the spacecraft's signal went dark just moments after it was sacked back up.
The competition ended a year ago without a victor, but SpaceIL and partner Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the country's biggest aerospace and defense company, continued working on the 5-foot-tall (1.5 meters) Beresheet.
Beresheet, Hebrew for the biblical phrase "in the beginning", would have been the first Israeli and first private spacecraft to land on the moon.
The lander was able to restart its main engine, according to the statement, but "by that time, its velocity was too high to slow down and the landing could not be completed as planned". China's Chang'e-4 made the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon on January 3, after a probe sent by Beijing made a lunar landing elsewhere in 2013. "But we definitely tried", said another SpaceIL official. This very attempt is a tremendous achievement and I think that you see by all the applause here that we really are the fourth country to reach it. "And that caused an unfortunate chain of events we're not sure about", he said. It traveled a total of 4 million miles to the moon, soaring around the Earth before entering orbit around the moon. In a tweet, Peter Diamandis, founder of X Prize Foundation, announced, "XPRIZE to award $1 Million Moonshot Award to SpaceIL team for them to continue their work and pursue Beresheet 2.0".
Nevertheless, Israel is the seventh nation to reach the moon.
The spacecraft crashed in the last part of its journey, moments before it was supposed to land.
"Preliminary technical information collected by the teams shows that the first technical issue occurred at 14 km above the Moon", SpaceIL said.
The mission received some funding from Israel's government, but was mostly paid for through private investment.
Built and launched on a shoestring budget of just under $100 million, Beresheet had little financial wiggle room to incorporate failsafe mechanisms aboard the craft, and SpaceIL was unable to conduct a full suite of preflight tests.