Projected course of Beresheet spacecraft
Projected course of Beresheet spacecraftSpaceIL

Will Israel’s first mission to the moon be axed just days after launch?

Last Friday morning (Israel time, Thursday night local time), the Israeli-built Beresheet lunar lander spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, kicking-off the first Israeli space mission.

On Sunday, the unmanned spacecraft’s control team in Ramat Gan, Israel reported that Beresheet had successfully completed its first scheduled maneuver.

Problems began to develop afterwards, however, with malfunctions reported in the spacecraft’s star tracker navigation system.

Then on Monday night the spacecraft failed to execute a scheduled maneuver, after the onboard system reset itself in an apparent glitch.

The setback raised questions Tuesday morning about the spacecraft’s ability to complete its mission to the moon on time – or at all.

SpaceIL, the private company behind the launch, is still confident that Beresheet will complete its lunar landing on schedule, reaching the moon’s surface on April 11th.

SpaceIL CEO Dr. Ido Antebi said that at least for now, it does not appear that the malfunction will prevent the spacecraft from landing on the moon on schedule.

“If we succeed in fixing the malfunction within a day or two, there’s no reason why the glitch should force a change in the date of arrival at the moon.”

But others appeared less certain, Arutz Sheva has learned.

When Ofer Doron, a senior official at Israel Aerospace Industries, was asked Tuesday morning if the malfunction which occurred onboard the Beresheet spacecraft Monday night would endanger the mission to the moon, he said the issue was still under examination.

“We still don’t know, we’re studying the issue. At the moment I am not terribly worried,” said Doron, adding that “the more we understand what caused the malfunction, the more we’ll know how to prevent it from happening again.”

“Basically, the whole thing happened when there was no communication,” with the spacecraft, Doron continued.

“And just like how we see sometimes in movies that they’re about to lose communication, they lose it – they know it’s going to happen, and they’re waiting there with this huge impatience, this anticipation, waiting for communications to be restored, and it never comes back the exact moment you expect it to. So you’re waiting and waiting and waiting – and then you finally get communications back. First of all you’re happy that the communications came back, but then afterwards you see that the maneuver wasn’t completed, and you try to understand why. There were moments of great suspense in the control room last night.”