The Israeli privately-financed SpaceIL Beresheet (B’reshit) unmanned lunar landing probe has crashed on the Moon as the result of a complication which caused its landing engine to be cut off at a key moment.

Orbit raising plan for SpaceIL lunar lander Beresheet. Courtesy: SpaceIL

Having hitched a paid-for ride on a Falcon 9 launch on 22 February, and weighing 585 kg at launch, the IAI-built Beresheet raised its initial transfer orbit in stages to eventually reach the Moon on 4 April.  Once there an engine burn let the spacecraft achieve lunar orbit. The Beresheet lunar spacecraft then slowly lowered its lunar orbit until it was only 200 x 16 km around the Moon.

Then at 1912 GMT on 11 April 2019 the Beresheet lander began a final burn in an attempt to land from an altitude of 26 km. However, the Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) temporarily failed which caused the main engine to be cut off at circa 14km. A restart was attempted but this was too late to prevent a crash. The impact at circa 300 miles per hour (500 KPH) occurred at 1923 GMT and the spacecraft was lost.

Beresheet had been designed to take magnetic readings from Moon using a magnetometer. It also carried  a camera for capturing pictures of the Lunar surface, a video camera for landing sequence, and a retro-reflector for laser tracking, and a time-capsule of digital files.

What Beresheet should have looked like if had landed successfully. Courtesy: SpaceIL