The crash site of the Beresheet lunar lander has been spotted by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRC). The lander was developed by SpaceIL and if it had successfully touched down, it would have been the first privately funded commercial lunar lander to do so.
The Beresheet lander was launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral on February 22, 2019. After raising its orbit slowly over several weeks, the spacecraft successfully entered into an elliptical orbit around the Moon.
On April 11, SpaceIL operators began decent operations hoping to touch down in a region in the north of the Mare Serenitatis. However, during its descent, the spacecraft’s main engine failed. Unable to slow it’s decent sufficiently, Beresheet impacted with the lunar surface at around 1,000 meters per second faster than intended, which resulted in the lander’s complete destruction.
Following the destruction of the lander, NASA tasked the LRC to search for the crash site. The orbiter’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) acquired 6 images of the crash site. The point of impact is marked by a light smudge approximately 10 meters across with a small crater in the centre.
Although the Beresheet mission was ultimately a failure, a press release revealing the discovery of the crash site suggested some good may be derived.
“While not a successful soft landing, the Beresheet impact provides another example of small impact events; the crash site can be compared to the two GRAIL and LADEE spacecraft that impacted the Moon in 2012 and 2014, respectively. The study of these impacts is giving us new insights into how the lunar regolith (soil) evolves over time.”