Did the NASA Experiment Survive the Israeli Moon Crash?

A NASA experiment may have survived on April 11. accident of the lunar landing vehicle Beresheet of Israel, experts said ..

The payload of NASA, known as the Lunar retroreflector array (LRA), is a demonstration of technology composed of eight mirrors made with quartz cube corners that are placed in a domed aluminum frame. These mirrors are intended to serve as markers for other spacecraft, which can use them to orient themselves in precision landings.

The whole instrument is smaller than a computer mouse and light. But it is hard, resistant to radiation and designed to be long lasting, so the LRA may not have been destroyed by the hard landing of Beresheet.

Related: The first moon of Israel, Lander Beresheet in pictures

"Yes, we believe that the laser reflector series would have survived the crash, although it could have separated from the main body of the spacecraft," said David Smith, of the Mbadachusetts Institute of Technology, principal investigator of the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) instrument. on board NASA Lunar reconnaissance orbiter (LRO) spacecraft.

"Of course, we do not know the orientation of the matrix," said Smith, who is also an emeritus researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, in the Interior Outer Space. "It could be the other way around, but it has a reception angle of 120 degrees, and we only need one of the 0.5-inch cubes for detection, but it certainly has not made it any easier."

The LOLA team will begin to plan the LRA hunting observations soon, he added.

Demonstration of NASA's LRA technology after installation in Beresheet. The matrix is ​​mounted on top of the ship, seen here below on the left, at approximately 7 o'clock.

Demonstration of NASA's LRA technology after installation in Beresheet. The matrix is ​​mounted on top of the ship, seen here below on the left, at approximately 7 o'clock.

(Image: © SpaceIL / Courtesy Xiaoli Sun / GSFC)

Detection attempts

The laser beams generated by LOLA hit the lunar surface and bounce off the instrument. For each beam that returns, LOLA measures its flight time or range.

And if LOLA manages to bounce some light on the LRA reflector, the team should know.

NASA is interested in splashing the moon with many of these retroreflectors in the future. These would serve as permanent "fiducial markers" in Moon, which means that future ships could use them as reference points to make precision landings.

In addition, LRO is trying to capture the image of the Beresheet accident site with its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter camera system, or LROC, for short, Smith said.

Chain of events

Preliminary data provided by the engineering teams of the nonprofit group SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), which together led The mission of Beresheet, suggesting a technical failure in one of the components of the lander activated the chain of events on April 11 that caused the malfunction of the main engine of the ship.

If the main engine did not work properly, it was impossible to stop the Beresheet speed. The lunar vehicle overcame the problem by restarting the engine. However, at that time, its speed was too high to slow down and the landing could not be completed as planned, said the mission team members.

According to SpaceIL and IAI, the information collected so far shows that the first technical problem it occurred at 8.7 miles (14 kilometers) above the moon. At 492 feet (150 meters) from the lunar terrain, the connection to the spacecraft was completely lost. At that time, Beresheet moved vertically at 310 mph (500 km / h), heading for an inevitable collision with the lunar surface.

The Beresheet spacecraft, whose name means "genesis" or "in the beginning" in Hebrew, was launched on February 21.

Meanwhile, the dream of the moon of Israel has not died! SpaceIL President Morris Kahn announced over the weekend that the group plans to build and launch a follow-up lunar landing vehicle: Beresheet 2.0.

David Leonard wrote the next book "Moon Rush: The New Space Race", which will be published by National Geographic in May 2019. A longtime writer for Space.com, David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades . Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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