Israeli spacecraft crashes on surface of the moon

An Israeli spacecraft crashed on the surface of the moon, bringing an end to the bid to make it the first private craft to do so.

Had it succeeded, the Beresheet lander would also have made Israel only the fourth country to manage the feat.

But Doron Opher, general manager of the space division of Israel Aerospace Industries, said the craft "definitely crashed on the surface of the moon".

It lost communication with Earth just moments before it was due to make its lunar landing.

The Beresheet lander, whose name is Hebrew for Genesis, took off from Florida's Cape Canaverel as part of a "ride share" with Elon Musk's SpaceX, as the Israeli mission by non-profit organisation SpaceIL could not afford its own rocket.

Beresheet had been circling the Earth in increasingly large orbits, waiting to be caught in the moon's gravity. Credit: APTN

The four-legged spacecraft, which was approximately the size of a washing machine, had been circling the Earth in increasingly large orbits waiting to be captured by the moon's gravity.

It was expected to land in the Sea of Serenity, on the northern hemisphere of the moon's near side.

A time capsule was on board the lander - which included a picture of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died on the space shuttle Columbia in 2003 - as well as a lunar library containing 30 million pages on a disk from the US-based Arch Mission Foundation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was on hand for what organisers had hoped to be a celebration, was pragmatic about the disappointing end to the mission.

"If at first you don't succeed, try try again," he said.