A Crashed Israeli Lunar Lander Spilled Tardigrades on the Moon

It was just before midnight on April 11 and everyone at the Israel Aerospace Industries mission control center in Yehud, Israel, had their eyes fixed on two large projector screens. On the left screen was a stream of data being sent back to Earth by Beresheet, its lunar lander, which was about to become the first private spacecraft to land on the moon. The right screen featured a crude animation of Beresheet firing its engines as it prepared for a soft landing in the Sea of Serenity. But only seconds before the scheduled landing, the numbers on the left screen stopped. Mission control had lost contact with the spacecraft, and it crashed into the moon shortly thereafter. Half a world …

The World Watched Apollo 11 UnfoldTogether

This story is part of a series commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. About 3.5 billion earthlings lived on this planet in 1969, and a full sixth of them—600 million souls—watched the Apollo moon landing on TV. The Apollo 11 crew had lifted off on July 16 from Kennedy Space Center, where people camped out for days to get a good spot to watch the launch. It took four days to travel to the moon, and then on July 20, 1969, the lunar module touched down. Shortly before 11 pm on the East Coast, the first clear TV picture was received back on Earth. When Neil Armstrong took the very first step onto the moon’s surface, it …

A WIRED Booklovers Guide to the Moon

This story is part of a series commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. Humanity had yet to set foot on the moon in 1968, but Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke were already envision­ing commercial space liners and a lunar research base on the big screen. Like many sci-fi films, 2001: A Space Odyssey undershot the timeline a bit. It’s been nearly 48 years since human beings last left low-Earth orbit to visit the moon’s surface, but if you’ve sensed a resurgence in spacebound hopefulness, you’re not a lunatic. At the annual meeting of the National Space Council in March, Vice President Mike Pence directed NASA to return to the moon within the next five years, and …

SpaceX Lands All 3 Boosters of the World’s Most Powerful Rocket

The Falcon Heavy rocket is many things, but “timely” is not one of them. Delay after delay have plagued its development. And this week, the same fate befell its launch schedule. Originally slated to lift off last Sunday, the Falcon Heavy’s first commercial launch was thrice delayed due to unfavorable weather conditions before it finally left launchpad 39-A at Kennedy Space Center today. But it was worth the wait. The minute the launch window opened on Thursday, the rocket boosted its payload, a Saudi Arabian telecommunications satellite, toward geostationary orbit. Even from across several miles of water, the power of 5 million pounds of thrust was enough to rattle your ribcage. One nearly had to shout to be heard over …