The Israeli team behind the Beresheet spacecraft’s failed moon landing has explained that a “technical glitch” shut down one of the craft’s engines, which sent it flying to its doom at 500kph.
The craft, launched by Israeli nonprofit space venture SpaceIL and defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries, crashed into the surface of the moon on Thursday, after failing to adequately slow its descent.
The SpaceIL team explained on Friday that the first technical issue occurred 14km above the moon’s surface. By the time the team lost contact with the craft at 150 meters, it was moving at 500kph, “making a collision inevitable.”
Preliminary technical information collected by the teams shows that the first technical issue occurred at 14 km above the Moon. At 150 meters when the connection with #Beresheet was lost, it was moving at 500 km/h, making a collision inevitable. #IsraelToTheMoon#SpaceIL
— Israel To The Moon (@TeamSpaceIL) April 12, 2019
“Our engineers think that a technical glitch in one of the components caused the main engine to shut down – making it impossible to slow the spacecraft’s descent,” SpaceIL explained. “By the time the engine was restarted, its velocity was too high to land properly.”
Beresheet, Hebrew for the biblical phrase “in the beginning,” would have been the first Israeli and first private spacecraft to land on the moon. To date, only Russia, the US, and China have managed to perform controlled ‘soft’ landings on the lunar surface.
The SpaceIL team were unperturbed by the loss of the mission, and counted the failed landing as an achievement in itself. The team will also receive a $1 million ‘Moonshot Award’ from California-based XPRIZE foundation, “in honor of their achievements and their milestone as the first privately funded entity to orbit the moon.”
“SpaceIL’s mission not only touched the Moon, it touched the lives and hearts of an entire world that was watching,” said XPRIZE founder Peter Diamandis.
They may not have had a successful landing this time, but @TeamSpaceIL has still made history. They will be the recipients of our first ever $1M Moonshot Award, in honor of their achievements and their milestone as the first privately-funded entity to orbit the Moon. 🌒 #moonshotpic.twitter.com/ErUfjqvvxY
— XPRIZE (@xprize) April 11, 2019
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu watched the landing attempt from the control center, and has already promised that an Israeli craft will return to the moon in the next two or three years.
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