The next few years were defined by successes for both agencies until July 21, 1969, when - just as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were completing the first moonwalk - Luna 15 lost contact with ground control and likely barreled into the lunar surface.
Israel is now the fourth country to send a craft to the surface of the Moon, though the previous three (the former Soviet Union, the USA, and China) were able to successfully land their spacecraft intact.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was watching the landing mission from the control room, stressed that Israel would try again and succeed in two or three years.
Although the journey is 384,000 kilometres, Beresheet will have travelled a total of 6.5 million kilometres due to a series of orbits.
The main goals, SpaceIL and IAI representatives have said, involved advancing Israel's space program, increasing the nation's technological knowhow and getting young people more interested in science, technology, engineering and math. Despite the botched touchdown, SpaceIL was able to win $1 million XPRIZE. The team will also receive a $1 million "Moonshot Award" from California-based XPRIZE foundation, "in honor of their achievements and their milestone as the first privately funded entity to orbit the moon".
The spacecraft's engine turned off shortly before landing.
Precise details on what went wrong with Beresheet (a Hebrew word meaning "Genesis") are still unknown.
Its frame held a time capsule of digital files the size of coins containing the Torah, children's drawings, dictionaries in 27 languages, Israeli songs, as well as memories of a Holocaust survivor. Israel ambassador to India Ron Malka said, "Though Beresheet landed on the moon but not the way we wanted to".
But Beresheet accomplished plenty during its short life, as we shall see.
The project began as part of the Google Lunar XPrize, which in 2010 offered $30 million in awards to encourage scientists and entrepreneurs to come up with relatively low-priced moon missions. The entire spacecraft was reset to restore communications and control, but this appears to have come too late. "Never lose hope-your hard work, teamwork and innovation is inspiring to all".
Following its first intentional impact on the moon in 1959 (a mission called Luna 2) and a failed attempt to put a lander on the moon in 1963 (Luna 4), the USSR on May 10, 1965, was ready to touch Luna 5 down softly on the lunar surface. Indian Space Research Organisation, which nearly lost the race to Beresheet in December last after Chandrayaan-2 project got delayed due to technical problems, can now hope to enter the elite space club of three countries -Russia, US and China- as the launch of its Rs 800cr second moon mission is scheduled in May.