Why Israel’s Beresheet Spacecraft crashed on landing?

Beresheet Lunar Lander

Many have tried the Moon landing, but only a few — 3 exactly — have succeeded till now. USSR — now Russia — in 1966 was the first to accomplish this glory, soon followed by the United States and in 2013 Chinese did it – recently they were also successful in landing a probe on the dark side of the moon. Israel, if successful, would have become the fourth country to hold this glory.

The Whole Story before landing

The Story of the Israeli moon lander — Beresheet — started way back in 2011, when SpaceIL — a non profit organisation — was created to compete in the Google Lunar X Prize — The competition was to land a robot on the moon and offered its winner a prize of $20 million. Surprisingly, no team was successful and thus the competition ended without a winner.

But despite this, SpaceIL along with Israel Aerospace Industries kept on working on the moon mission — Beresheet. Trying their luck, on February 21, they launched their creation successfully on top of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Beresheet successfully entered the Earth’s orbit.

Beresheet’s Mission (Source: SpaceIL)

Beresheet’s Mission (Source: SpaceIL)

For the next few days, Beresheet kept on raising its elliptical orbit in order to reach the Moon. This raise in orbit was achieved by firing the probes engines now and then. Soon, the time passed and now Beresheet was closer than ever to make its nation the forth country to touch the Moon’s surface.

On April 4, Beresheet entered the Moon’s orbit. Manoeuvring a bit and the probe was just 10 to 15 miles away from the Moon’s surface — compare that to the 4 million miles it had travelled to achieve this.

The Landing — Crash

Lunar landings are done autonomously and the same was true for Beresheet. But something didn’t work out, at that point in time, without analysing the landing data, it was impossible to say what exactly happened.

After data analyses, the team revealed that Beresheet was performing as designed, also the main engine turned on to slow the probe’s descend speed, but due to some technical glitch or some component failure, the engine turned off. By the time the team at ground station turned the engine back on, it was too late and the velocity was too high, causing the probe to crash on the lunar surface.

Future Moon plans of Israel

Just a few day into the launch, the X-Prize foundation had announced to give the SpaceIL an amount of $1 million, if Beresheet was successful. Well, even though it has failed, seeing the efforts put in, SpaceIL will still get the prize amount.

As of the Israel prime minister “Benjamin Netanyahu”, he said “If you don’t succeed in the first attempt, you try again”.