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Israel nearly rewrote the lunar history books on Thursday evening as spacecraft Beresheet (Hebrew for Genesis) failed to land safely on the Moon.

"#Beresheet's main engine fail!"

The mishap occurred in front of a packed audience that included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and was broadcast live on national television.

An Israeli spacecraft lost contact with Earth and crashed just moments before it was to land on the moon late Thursday, failing in an ambitious attempt to make history as the first privately funded lunar mission.

An Israeli flag was emblazoned on the spacecraft, befitting a probe that's as much about Israeli pride as it is about lunar science or commercial space exploration.

Landing the spacecraft on the moon will bring an extraordinary achievement for Israel, which will join superpowers China, Russia, and the United States in landing a spacecraft on the moon. "We have also made Israel the seventh country ever to orbit the moon and, hopefully by tonight, the fourth country to actually land on the moon".

Space programs in only three nations - the U.S., Russian Federation and China - have successfully landed spacecraft on the moon.

The first privately-funded vehicle to reach the moon, Beresheet was built by SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries and was launched on February 22.

Don't stop believing! We came close but unfortunately didn't succeed with the landing process. The last image received from the spacecraft, shown above, is from an altitude 22km (13.2 miles) above the lunar surface.

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The spacecraft's engine had turned off shortly before landing.

"We are on the moon but not in the way we wanted", one unidentified staffer said.

If the landing is successful, the Beresheet lander is created to last 2-3 days on the surface as there is no thermal control system, so the lander will overheat in the lunar day.

"We made it all the way to the moon. I'd like to feel that I've used my money productively", Kahn said.

"Back when we got started, we thought it was going to be a two-year project, the budget would be less than $10 million, and the spacecraft will weigh less than five kilogrammes", he said.

In the 1960s before the Apollo lunar landings, NASA sent seven unmanned Surveyor flights to the moon and two failed, he said.

"There is a suspicion that we did not land on the moon in the best fashion".

NASA also participated in the mission and installed a laser retro-reflector on the spacecraft to assist with communication after landing. The craft is assumed to have crashed into the lunar surface. "I think we can be proud". "And that caused an unfortunate chain of events we're not sure about", Mr Doron said.