Some bittersweet news today when we learned that the Israeli spacecraft Beresheet unfortunately crashed shortly before landing on the Moon. According to the telemetry received from the ship until the last moment, the main engine did not start during a critical braking burn that would have reduced the landing speed to the ship. Despite attempts to restart the engine before impact with the surface, the ship hit the Moon with too much force and is presumably destroyed. It is likely that the high-resolution images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will eventually give us a better idea of the condition of the surface ship, but at this point the mission is officially over.
It is easy to see this as a failure. Originally conceived as an entrance to the Google Lunar X Prize, the goal of the $ 100 million mission was to become the first spacecraft to be privately funded not only to land on the lunar surface, but also to navigate laterally through a series of "jumps" enhanced. While the mission certainly did not achieve those lofty goals, it is important to remember that Beresheet did land on the moon.
He did not make the planned soft landing, a feat achieved so far only by the United States, Russia and China; but the fact of the matter is that an Israeli spacecraft now rests on the lunar surface. Although Beresheet did not survive the landing attempt, history must recognize Israel as the fourth country to place an object on the surface of our nearest celestial neighbor.
It is also very likely that this is not the last time that Israel reaches the Moon. During the live broadcast of the mission, after it became clear that Beresheet had been lost, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised that his country would try again in the next two years. The lessons learned today will undoubtedly help refine your next mission, and without competition from other nations for the foreseeable future, there is still an excellent opportunity for Israel to secure its place in history as the fourth country to achieve a successful soft landing. .
Of course, you must reach the Moon before you can land on it, and in this sense, Beresheet was an absolute success. We previously covered the complex maneuvers required to put the ship into lunar orbit after traveling into space as a secondary payload on the Falcon 9 rocket; a technique that we will probably see more thanks to NASA's recent commitment to return to the Moon. Even if Beresheet never attempted to land on the surface, the fact that it could enter a stable lunar orbit and deliver dramatic images close to the surface of the Moon will be a point of well-deserved pride for Israel.
If there is anything to take away from the loss of Beresheet, it is that traveling among the stars is exceptionally difficult. Today we remember that even the slightest miscalculation can quickly become a tragedy when we leave the relative safety of Earth's atmosphere. In a time when a mega rocket that launches a live sports car on YouTube seems a strangely commonplace, it can be easy to forget that humanity's long road to space presented as many heartbreaking defeats as triumphant successes.
This will not be the last time hundreds of millions of dollars in high-tech equipment will be lost by pushing the absolute edge of the envelope, and that's nothing to be upset about. Human beings have an insatiable need to see what is on the horizon and that means we must badume a certain level of risk. The alternative is stagnation and, in the long term, it will cost us much more than a few probes.