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Named Beresheet, the Hebrew word for genesis, the four-legged craft had meant to measure magnetic fields from its landing site on a lunar plain called Mare Serenitatis, the Sea of Serenity.

The Beresheet lost its main engine and communications with Israeli support technicians in the final minutes of its scheduled moon landing.

But that could be about to change, as a washing-machine-sized, privately funded Israeli spacecraft approaches the moon. "It's a tremendous achievement up 'til now".

Beresheet was created to make some measurements of the local gravity field around its landing site during its two or three Earth days of work on the moon.

Israel plans to become the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the Moon after Russian Federation, the United States, and China with its first mission to the Earth's only permanent natural satellite. Beresheet was the first private spacecraft to insert itself into lunar orbit and made Israel the seventh nation to achieve such a feat.

On Wednesday, the lander made a manoeuvre to lower its altitude for a lunar orbit of between nine and 124 miles while preparing for the landing.

The Google Lunar X Prize Competition, which offered $20 million for the first privately funded venture to make it to the moon, is what first drove SpaceIL to get Beresheet off the ground.

According to a report from Space.com, the team never intended Beresheet to be a science craft, but instead its mission involved "advancing Israel's space program, increasing the nation's technological knowhow and getting young people more interested in science, technology, engineering and math".

Israeli scientists stand next to unmanned spacecraft, Beresheet.

"This is what happens, this is space", said Morris Kahn. "I think we can be proud". A successful flight would've make Israel just the fourth country to land on the moon.

"We're going on this", Netanyahu said in Hebrew.

After eight years of development, Beresheet spacecraft was launched from Florida's Cape Canaveral on Friday, January 22.

This wasn't Beresheet's first brush with failure, but it was hoped that the spacecraft, which also had launch difficulties, would enjoy a smooth descent to the Moon.

In other words, despite the less-than-perfect landing, Xprize will still award the group their full $1-million United States dollars prize so SpaceIL can "continue their work and pursue Beresheet 2.0" in the near future.

Pepper watch the live broadcast of the SpaceIL spacecraft as it lost contact with Earth in Netanya, Thursday, April 11, 2019.

During the project's development, the SpaceIL team met with more than 1 million kids to tell them about their story. It dangled tens of millions of dollars in prize money with the hope of spurring a private company to land a robot on the Moon by 2014.