Israel has reached the lunar surface but not as expected. After the space probe Beresheet (Genesis), -owned by the Israeli company SpaceIL- began the descent and sent the first image of the approach during the landing maneuver, they lost contact with the device. The engineering team confirmed that Beresheet It fell at 22.25 yesterday (21:25 Spanish time) from a height of about 10 kilometers at a speed close to 700 kilometers per hour. The technicians believe that it probably failed some of the deceleration devices that were used by the main engine to make a controlled descent of the autonomous probe. "We will investigate what happened to understand what happened," said Ido Anteby, general director of SpaceIl who acted as master of ceremonies in the control room of the mission.
Despite the failure of the mission, with which Israel claimed to be the fourth country to land on land and the first to do so by a private initiative, the Jewish philanthropist Morris Khan, who has paid along with the game magnate Sheldon Adelson, most of the 100 million dollars (about 88 million euros) that the mission has cost, encouraged to continue. "We choose to dream and we are not afraid. The next one will be better. We will learn from this and we will achieve it, "said Khan.
Beresheet It had traveled 400,000 kilometers when at 21.08 in Spain it was 25 km away. of the surface of the Moon and initiated the maneuver that would allow him to descend vertically aided by several engines designed to help guide the probe in the correct position to reach its objective. At four minutes, past the critical moment indicated by the engineers as the "point of no return", after which the mission could no longer be aborted, there was applause from the team that knew that it had overcome one of the most complicated phases.
"We have lost the probe"
But the joy turned into concern shortly after, when he was about 10 kilometers from reaching his goal. "We do not have communication, we seem to have lost the probe. We are looking at it, "they announced from the mission control room in the Israeli city of Yahud. There, following the live event, were the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and several dozen guests. In the same complex an area with eight telescopes was also enabled to observe the moon and several giant screens where hundreds of Israelis congregated.
A few tense minutes were experienced when the main engine of the probe began to fail. Then communications began to fail with the device in the shape of an arachnid, two meters in diameter and 1.5m high. "It does not have the main engine, we are losing height," was heard in the room.
After several attempts, in which it seemed that the engineers had recovered the main power source to recover the landing angle of the probe, communication with it was definitely lost. Faces of concern among those present, whose fears were immediately confirmed. "We are afraid we have not landed in the best possible way. It did not come. We are the seventh country to orbit on the moon, but not the fourth to pose a probe, as we wanted, "confirmed Ofer Doron, director of the space division of the Israel Aerospace Industry.
"We will continue"
Deception but also pride among the team of engineers for what they consider a great achievement, despite the fact that the probe crashed on the lunar surface, instead of moon landing smoothly to stay three days in it, making measurements, as planned. "We're going to keep trying. An Israeli probe will land on the Moon, but complete ", assured Netanyahu to those present.
Despite having the certainty that the probe was shattered, they could not determine the whereabouts of the scientific instruments with which they were going to make magnetic measurements to unravel the mystery of how and when the lunar rocks were magnetized. Nor of the so-called "time capsule", which were to be left on the lunar surface for future generations and which contained a note from the late President Shimon Peres, a copy of the Declaration of Independence of Israel, the lyrics of the Hebrew national anthem, children's drawings, memories of a Holocaust survivor and a copy of the Hebrew Bible, engraved with nanotechnology in a metal circle the size of a coin.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin also followed the development of the mission live, but from his residence in Jerusalem, surrounded by some 200 children invited to accompany him. "Sometimes there are disappointments but it is also a wonderful scientific achievement," Rivlin said to the kids shortly before singing the Hatikva, the Israeli anthem.
The mission, launched on February 21 from the US base in Cape Canaveral (Florida), he tried to land in the Sea of Tranquility and thus emulate the arrival of the Apollo 11, at 50th anniversary of its launch. The Apollo 11 It was the first mission that reached the moon and marked a historic milestone for humanity at the hands of astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.
Aldrin sent words of comfort to the Israeli team through Twitter. "Your hard work, teamwork and innovation is inspiring for everyone," the astronaut wrote.