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The first spacecraft to successfully hit the moon was the Soviet Union's Luna 2, in 1959. Since then, dozens of spacecraft have intentionally or accidentally crashed into the moon, planets and other objects around the solar system.

Two spacecraft hit the moon this year: Israel's Beresheet lander and India's Chandrayaan-2 Vikram lander. Beresheet went silent and crashed in April. India is studying whether Vikram broke apart or remained in one piece after a hard landing in September. (A third spacecraft, China's Chang'e-4, landed softly in January.)

Space agencies have learned much from six decades of collisions. Water on the moon, the greenhouse effect on Venus and the composition of comets have all been studied by hard-hitting spacecraft. These crashes remind us, as NASA tweeted in sympathy with India, that "Space is hard."

Style on 10/21/2019

Print Headline: Space is hard for crashers

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