R.I.P.: A NASA spacecraft has photographed the final resting place of doomed Israeli lunar lander Beresheet. Using older photo composites of the area, it was able to show a definite impact area. NASA also confirmed that SpaceIL, which developed and operated the craft, would try again with Beresheet 2.
Back in February, Israel’s SpaceIL sent up its first ever lunar lander on a SpaceX rocket to perform some experiments on the Moon’s surface. It took almost two months for the vehicle named Beresheet to begin its descent. However, the moonshot was ruined when controllers lost communication with the craft, and it crashed.
It was thought that the selfie (above) it took on the way down would be the last anyone ever saw of it, but it turns out a NASA orbiter has found and photographed the remains.
NASA reports its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) spotted the debris of the Israeli craft on April 22, just 11 days after the crash. The orbiter was able to snap a shot of the impact zone, and by digging through the LROC photo archive from 2016, researchers were able to put together and post a before and after image of the location.
The image was taken from far above the lunar surface (~2,613 meters), but the broken vehicle is clearly visible. Beresheet was traveling at more than 1000 meters per second but did not leave an impact crater because it hit the ground at a shallow angle (<10 degrees). However, comparing the before and after (enhanced) image, it appears the collision stirred up a lot of dust (ejecta) around the crash zone.
Even though it failed its overall mission, Beresheet succeeded in accomplishing a couple of firsts. For one, it is the first lander ever sent to the moon by Israel. Second, it is the first craft developed and flown by a private non-profit to have orbited the Moon.
SpaceIL said after the mishap that it might try again. NASA has confirmed that work has already begun on Beresheet 2.