Israeli scientists' attempt at the first private moon landing failed because of a glitch that caused a high-speed crash into the lunar surface
- On April 11, Beresheet - the four-legged spacecraft from Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL's private moon mission - crashed into the moon's surface.
- In a press release, SpaceIL reported that a technical glitch in one of Beresheet's components caused the spacecraft's main engine to malfunction.
- This malfunction made it impossible for the engine to slow Beresheet's velocity sufficiently to prevent it from crashing into the lunar surface.
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In February, SpaceX launched Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL's 1,300-pound robot, known as Beresheet, into space. But the world's first private moon mission ended in failure yesterday when the dishwasher-sized robot smacked down into the lunar surface.
Beresheet - a biblical reference that means "in the beginning" - transmitted one final photo from about 14 miles above the lunar surface, shown above, before its failure.The live broadcast of the event reported that Beresheet's main engine failed during its descent toward the moon. By the time mission controllers rebooted the spacecraft to try and restart the engine, it was too late.
Now, a press release from SpaceIL confirmed those reports, stating that a technical glitch in one of Beresheet's components caused the spacecraft's main engine to malfunction.
An ill-timed technical glitch prevented Beresheet from slowing down during its descent
Preliminary data collected by SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)'s engineering teams suggested that this technical glitch triggered a chain of events that briefly crippled the spacecraft's main engine. "Without the main engine working properly, it was impossible to stop Beresheet's velocity," the press released stated.
While the robot was able to overcome the malfunction by restarting the engine, by the time all systems were back online, Beresheet's velocity was too high for it to slow down sufficiently before impacting the moon.
The first technical issue occurred a little less than 9 miles above the moon. When SpaceIL and IAI teams finally lost contact with the spacecraft 492 feet from the lunar surface, Beresheet was still vertically descending at speeds upwards of 310 miles per hour on its collision course with the ground.
The Israeli engineering teams will continue running tests to get more details about what went wrong.
Had the mission - backed by about $100 million in private funding - been successful, it would have made Israel the fourth nation ever to have a spacecraft survive a lunar-landing attempt.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was present at the launch following his re-election, commented on the failure from the mission's control center in Yehud, Israel.
"If at first you don't succeed, try again," Netanyahu said.