• An Israeli spacecraft crashed into the moon just moments before touchdown, failing in an ambitious attempt to make history last week as the first privately funded lunar landing.
The spacecraft lost communication with ground control during its final descent on Thursday. Moments later, the mission was declared a failure.
“We definitely crashed on the surface of the moon,” said Opher Doron of Israel Aerospace Industries.
He said the spacecraft’s engine turned off shortly before landing, and scientists were still trying to figure out the cause. The spacecraft, called Beresheet, was in pieces scattered at the landing site, he said.
Doron nonetheless called the mission an “amazing success”, for reaching the moon and coming so close to landing successfully.
“It is by far the smallest, cheapest spacecraft ever to get to the moon,” he said. Beresheet was about the size of a washing machine.
The mishap occurred in front of a packed audience that included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and was broadcast live on national television.
“We will try again,” Netanyahu said. “We reached the moon, but we want to land more comfortably, and that is for the next time.”
It had been hoped that the small robotic spacecraft, built by the nonprofit SpaceIL and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, would match a feat that has been achieved only by US, Russia and China.
• Automakers showcased electric SUVs and sedans with longer range and luxury features yesterday at the Shanghai auto show, wooing Chinese buyers as Beijing slashes subsidies that helped to launch the industry.
Two of China’s biggest state-owned automakers unveiled models they said can travel 600 kilometres on one charge, or nearly double the range of global competitors. If that can be achieved, it would raise the standard for an industry trying to compete with gasoline models by defusing “range anxiety” or fear of being stranded with a dead battery.
China’s communist leaders have spent heavily seeking to make the country a leader in electrics. They’re now shifting the burden to automakers by imposing sales targets. That requires brands to create consumer-friendly models at a time when they are struggling with a sales slump.
“Competition will become more fierce,” said Ma Fanglie, chairman of BJEV, the electric unit of state-owned BAIC Group.
BJEV, one of the biggest electric producers by sales volume, unveiled the EX3 sedan, which it said can travel up to 630 kilometres on one charge. Ma said it is one of five new electric models under a plan to “transform and upgrade” BJEV into a brand that can compete without subsidies.
China is a top market for global automakers, giving them an incentive to go along with Beijing’s electric ambitions.