It’s now been a couple of weeks since Israel’s first attempt to land on the Moon was met with disaster at the last possible moment. The SpaceIL Beresheet lander crashed onto the Moon after what appeared to be some kind of engine failure in the final moments of approach, but new information is coming to light that suggests the engine may have had a good reason for shutting down.
A recent statement from SpaceIL offers a bit more context for the way the mission came to its unfortunate end, though plenty of questions remain.
“According to preliminary investigation of the Israeli spacecraft Beresheet’s landing maneuver, it appears that a manual command was entered into the spacecraft’s computer,” the statement reads. “This led to a chain reaction in the spacecraft, during which the main engine switched off, which prevented it from activating further.”
Update from @TeamSpaceIL re: #Beresheet: "It appears that a manual command was entered into the spacecraft's computer. This led to a chain reaction in the spacecraft, during which the main engine switched off, which prevented it from activating further." pic.twitter.com/BKK57nkgs8
— Brendan Byrne (@SpaceBrendan) April 17, 2019
During the live stream of the spacecraft’s final descent all appeared to be going well up until the engine shut down. The quick-thinking SpaceIL engineers issued a command to the spacecraft to restart the engine and it successfully fired them back up, but the lander was already plummeting to the lunar surface and was unable to recover.
It was a less-than-stellar conclusion to Israel’s first attempt to land a spacecraft on the Moon, but SpaceIL isn’t taking the defeat lying down. The company is already working on what it has called “Beresheet 2.0” and fully intends on successfully landing a spacecraft on the Moon sooner rather than later. Details regarding that mission and its eventual launch date have yet to be determined.