When NASA carried out a large chunk of its unmanned missions away from our planet, we are often waiting a long time to find out the results of the study.
One particular conclusion that we often hear is that there has been some form of crash, or that the particular probe or unit has been left to its own devices. A fine example of this was on the 11th April mission when SpaceIL sent up the Israeli Beresheet spacecraft.
This first-ever private spacecraft made it to the moon but had problems in the final phase of landing and crashed. Therefore, it was left on the moon with no real way of being able to save it.
NASA used its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to look out for the Beresheet and has now found it on the Moon. They took a snap of the point of impact, with the LROC taking a shot around 56 miles from the surface. They found a 10-meter wide smudge on the ground which, according to the experts, is the point of crash for the Beresheet.
It’s uncertain if it left a crater, or if it just dented the surface. More investigation and close-up imagery would be needed to help confirm that particular information. According to NASA, though, it’s possible that the crater the little spacecraft left behind could be ‘too small’ to have left a full crater, saying: “It’s possible the crater is just too small to show up in photos,
“Another possibility is that Beresheet formed a small indent instead of a crater, given its low angle of approach, light mass (compared to a dense meteoroid of the same size), and low velocity (again, relative to a meteoroid of the same size; Beresheet’s speed was still faster than most speeding bullets).”
The LRO camera which managed to get the shot has been circling the moon for around a decade. It passes a part of the Earth satellite on a twice-per-month basis, once during the lunar day and once during the lunar evening. By using a series of wide-angle and narrow-angle cameras, this manages to capture some pretty spectacular shots.
This latest find, though, could be a quite important one for making sure that in the future we know exactly where important tools sent up to the Moon have vanished.
According to NASA, though, it’s important to note that the landing site is not yet conclusive. As they mentioned, the fine soil particles which came up during descent could have created a highly reflective surface.
Others suggest that it would be gas that has come from the crash. Either way, NASA noted: “There are many clues that we’re actually looking at a man-made crater instead of a meteoroid-caused one,
“This is an important consideration, since the Moon, having no atmosphere, is constantly bombarded by space rocks that leave craters.”
So, while we might not get a definitive answer until it passes again in late May, at the moment it looks like we know where the Beresheet has landed.