The Beresheet spacecraft crashed into the Moon’s surface during its attempt to land on Earth’s satellite on Thursday evening, dashing the hopes of hundreds of engineers who had worked on the project for years.
Israel could still claim the title of seventh country to make lunar orbit, and the fourth country to reach the lunar surface, though unfortunately not in one piece.
“As far as we can see, we were very close to the Moon,” operation control director Alex Friedman said to engineers in the SpaceIL control room in Yehud, east of Tel Aviv, after communication with the spacecraft went down. “We are on the Moon, but not in the way that we wanted to.”
The spacecraft successfully initiated the landing sequence, but a few kilometers above the Moon’s surface the main engine failed, meaning the spacecraft could not properly brake in time to cushion its landing.
Opher Doron, the general manager of the Space Division at Israel Aerospace Industries, said engineers were still studying the problem that led to the crash.
Currently, they believed there had been a failure with one of the telemetry (altitude) measurement units, which caused a chain of events that ended up cutting the main engine about 10 kilometers (6 miles) above the Moon’s surface. Without the main engine, the spacecraft could not properly brake in time to make a gentle landing, instead crashing onto the surface.
Header image: The last shot Beresheet sent of landing before crashing onto the moon’s surface. (Youtube screenshot)