Where Israel’s doomed lunar lander crashed into the moon: NASA image captured from orbit reveals the site of impact ‘halo’ left behind by Beresheet
- Israel’s Beresheet craft crashed into the moon on April 11 during landing attempt
- Image captured by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)shows fresh impact site
- While it’s too far to tell if a crater was created, the image reveals impact halo
Published: 18:58 EDT, 15 May 2019 | Updated: 19:06 EDT, 15 May 2019
Israel attempted to become the first country to land a private spacecraft on the moon on April 11. But, things quickly unraveled shortly after the Beresheet lander began its descent.
Mission control was forced to reset the main engine when it was around a dozen miles from the surface but ultimately failed to get it all working again; unable to slow itself down, Beresheet plummeted and broke apart.
A new image captured by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) on April 22 shows a fresh impact site on a region of the moon called Sea of Serenity likely created by the high-speed collision.
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A series of ‘before’ images of the area from the last decade and as recently as 16 days before the crash revealed a new feature in line with what Beresheet would have created. NASA has used a 2016 photo (above) for comparison because of the lighting conditions on that day
THE BERESHEET CRAFT
Beresheet is about 5 feet (1 meter) tall by 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) wide with its landing gear and legs deployed
Beresheet will stay in Earth’s orbit for about a month, slowly widening its ellipse until it reaches apogee, or its farthest point from here, at nearly 250,000 miles (400,000 kilometres) away.
It will then be slowly introduced to the orbit of the moon.
Lunar surface operations are meant to last just two days. Beresheet will measure the magnetic field at the landing site, and send back data and pictures.
A time capsule is aboard the lander – which includes a picture of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died aboard space shuttle Columbia in 2003.
LRO was about 56 miles (90 kilometers) above the surface when it captured the image with its camera array.
From this distance, it could not make out whether or not a crater formed as a result of the collision, but a white impact halo can clearly be seen where it did not exist prior.
‘It’s possible the crater is just too small to show up in photos,’ NASA says.
‘Another possibility is that Beresheet formed a small indent instead of a crater, given its low angle of approach (around 8.4 degrees relative to the surface), light mass (compared to a dense meteoroid of the same size), and low velocity (again, relative to a meteoroid of the same size; Beresheet’s speed was still faster than most speeding bullets).’
Radio tracking allowed scientists to pinpoint the landing site to within a few miles, according to the space agency.
This, along with a series of ‘before’ images of the area from the last decade and as recently as 16 days before the crash revealed a new feature in line with what Beresheet would have created given its size and speed.
SpaceIL was hoping to complete a landing of Beresheet on the moon and make Israel the fourth country to manage the feat – behind the US, Russia and China.
While it was unable to achieve this accomplishment, the mission still makes Israel only the seventh country to ever each lunar orbit.
A new image captured by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) on April 22 shows a fresh impact site on a region of the moon called Sea of Serenity, shown on left and right. The right image has been enhanced
Radio tracking allowed scientists to pinpoint the landing site to within a few miles, according to the space agency. This, along with a series of ‘before’ images helped scientists to discover the new feature
Israel said not long after the crash that it planned to conduct another mission within the next few years.
SpaceIL’s Beresheet was part of a ‘ride share’ with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, as the mission could not afford its own rocket.
After travelling over 3.4 million miles (95.5m km) around the Earth and drawing ever closer to the moon, the spacecraft finally swung into the moon’s elliptical orbit on April 4.
The landmark attempt began shortly after 3pm ET (8pm BST) and in a live-streamed event held by Contact Global Broadcasting Services.