Why is the SpaceIL Lunar Lander doing a one-way trip? Is that a common project to do nowadays, to send landers to Mars and the Moon without returning them?

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe because of the smaller budget that drove to have a lighter payload which did not allow for extra fuel? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ This is a "show" mission more than a scientific mission, and a successful landing and walkabout it sufficient to make it a spectacular success for a first time deep space mission for this agency. Returning to Earth is just an opportunity to fail, whereas success may bring interest in a follow-on mission. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 14:34
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    $\begingroup$ It is very common for Mars landers not to return. In fact, it is ubiquitous. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 14:38
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    $\begingroup$ One way trips are and have always been the norm in space exploration. The few sample return missions (mentioned by @Hobbes) are very much the exceptions. $\endgroup$
    – ben
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 19:03

1 Answer 1


A one-way trip is much simpler and much cheaper than a return mission.

  • a return mission is more complicated because it has to do more
  • a return mission is much heavier (because of the extra systems, and the fuel needed for the return capsule) which means it needs a bigger launcher which is more expensive

We have had no sample return missions from any planet. There were a few from the Moon (Apollo and Luna), and a few from objects like asteroids and comets (e.g. Hayabusa).

The SpaceIL mission is a small, low-cost mission done as a technology demonstration. A return mission would have cost 10x more.


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