It was to be another space-related history made in a space (pun not intended) of two days. Prior to the simultaneous, worldwide revealing of the first ever image of a black hole, Israel’s moon lander was preparing for a historic touchdown on the moon with its $90 million Beresheet spacecraft. Beresheet which means genesis or in the beginning in Hebrew, was a product of SpaceIL, an Israeli not-for-profit organization, and took nearly a decade to developed.
The moon lander was delivered into space on SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on February 21st and it gain entry into the Moon’s orbit last week. If it did land, it would have become the seventh country to orbit the Moon, the fourth nation to land on the Moon’s surface after the U.S., Soviet Union, and China, and the first privately funded lander on the Moon’s surface. Unfortunately, though, it didn’t.
The news of it preparing for the landing came in on the 9th after two months of space travel, but on the 11th, news emerged that Beresheet was lost, probably crashed into the crater-filled surface – possibly creating a new crater on it. All was good upon entry into the Moon’s orbit, but as the spacecraft was firing up the main engine to slow down the descent, an unknown failure struck that causes the engine to shut down.
The mission team managed to get the engine back online, but somehow, they weren’t able to establish communication with the tiny robotic lander and after that, everything just went quiet. However, Beresheet did managed to send a couple of image of the sequence back to Earth, including a selfie with Israel’s flag and one final image of the lunar surface before misfortune struck.
From what I read, it was presumed that the moon lander have crashed. But what I don’t understand was, if it managed to get the engine back up, it should have somehow cushioned the ‘crash’ and if so, it would probably had a very bad landing that knocked out the comms. Who knows? It may be more or less intact, right there on the lunar surface. Just that it can’t be linked up to the mission control. But that’s just me speculating as a layman. I mean, seriously, there’s no way anyone will know. It is not like flying to Mount Rushmore to see if Washington’s nose was chipped or not, right?
Anywho… if you are interested, there is a video of an overview of the mission plan of Beresheet. Spoiler alert: it is nothing like Star Trek. Not even remotely close.
Images: YouTube (SpaceIL).