Before-and-after images show the impact site of the Israeli Beresheet lunar lander after it crashed to the moon in April. The before picture was taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter when lighting conditions matched those on the day Beresheet crashed. Image: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University
Executing an erroneous command sequence during its historic descent to the moon 11 April, the Israeli Beresheet robotic lander slammed into the surface at some 3,600 km/h (2,200 mph) at an angle of about 8.4 degrees, disintegrating on impact and creating a dark, elongated smudge about 10 metres (32 feet) across.
Eleven days after the crash, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter flew overhead and captured an image of the impact site, allowing a before-and-after comparison and calculations to help researchers determine what happened in the privately-developed landers final moments.
The LRO was 90 kilometres (56 miles) above the crash site when snapped the images and was unable to detect any signs of a crater. It’s possible a crater was excavated that’s too small for the orbiter’s camera system to resolve, or it may be that Beresheet simply gouged the surface thanks to the spacecraft’s shallow impact angle, fragility and velocity.
The left frame shows the Beresheet impact ...