Human error may have caused Israeli lander to crash land on moon

The Israeli start-up behind last week’s failed lunar landing says human error may have caused the spacecraft to crash into the moon.

SpaceIL, the non-profit that undertook the botched lunar mission, said Thursday that its engineers collectively decided to restart the inertial measurement unit, a critical part of the spacecraft’s guidance system, following its malfunction in the lander’s final descent.

This photo was taken by the Israeli spacecraft Beresheet about 22 kilometres above the moon’s surface as it prepared to land. It crash-landed after its engine shut off before reaching the surface. (SpaceIL)

The team says the command triggered a “chain of events” that culminated in the spacecraft slamming into the moon, otherwise “things may have been OK, but we’re still not sure.”

SpaceIL says it will continue to analyze the fatal glitch and publish a formal assessment in the coming weeks.

Had the mission succeeded, it would have marked a first for Israel and for privately-funded lunar voyages.

Shortly after the lander crashed, the Google XPrize Foundation announced it was awarding the first of its $1 million USD Moonshot Award to SpaceIL “in honour of their achievements and their milestone as the first privately funded entity to orbit the the moon.”