Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University




NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has used its high-powered LROC system to image Israel’s SpaceIL Beresheet crash site.

The imagery was taken eleven days after the attempted landing on April 11th.

Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University






Think gouge…rather than crater

At the scale of the narrow angle camera image, photo specialists cannot detect a crater.

“Perhaps there is one but it is simply too small to be seen,” explains a posting from LRO central at Arizona State University (ASU), “or the low angle of impact (less than ten degrees relative to the surface), the fragility of the spacecraft, and the velocity precluded crater formation (think gouge rather than crater).”

Surrounding the smudge is an area of increased reflectance (up to 20% higher).

Ragged zone

This ragged zone spans 98 feet (30 meters) to 164 feet (50 meters) from the smudge and includes a ray that extends southward about 328 feet (100 meters).

“The higher reflectance was likely caused by gases or very fine high-speed particles rapidly moving away from the impact site, which smoothed the upper layer of regolith and redistributed fine soil particles, which in turn increased reflectance,” notes the ASU/LRO posting.

Depleted of fuel, NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer spacecraft (LADEE) crashed on April 18, 2014. Its impact site on the eastern rim of Sundman V crater, the spacecraft was heading west when it impacted the surface. The ejecta form a V shaped pattern extending to the northwest from the impact point.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Small impact event

One upshot from the crash: while not a successful soft landing, the Beresheet impact provides another example of small impact events, explains the ASU/LRO website.

The crash site can be compared to NASA’s two GRAIL and the LADEE spacecraft that were purposely impacted on the Moon in 2012 and 2014, respectively. The study of these impacts is providing new insights into how the lunar regolith (soil) evolves over time.

“Despite the mishap, it is important to remember that Beresheet was the first spacecraft developed and flown by a non-profit entity to orbit the Moon,” explains the ASU/LRO posting. “And SpaceIL has announced they will be trying again, with Beresheet 2!”

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