NASA sensor might have survived the Beresheet crash on lunar surface

NASA's Lunar Retroreflector Array instrument
SpaceIL/Courtesy Xiaoli Sun/GSFC

Israel's Beresheet spacecraft had recently crashed into the lunar surface just a few minutes before the touchdown after an unexpected engine failure. The mission had a huge significance in space history, as it was supposed to be the world's first lunar landing. Even though the spacecraft was destroyed during the crash, experts believe that a NASA sensor onboard the craft might have survived the impact.

In the Beresheet spacecraft, there was a NASA payload known as the Lunar Retroreflector Array (LRA) and it is basically a technology demonstration that comprised of eight mirrors made of quartz cube corners that are set into a dome-shaped aluminium frame. It should be noted that this instrument is smaller than a computer mouse, but it is undoubtedly a remarkable testament to the hardiness of the space agency's equipment.

As per the experts, LRA is very tough and radiation resistant. So it can be expected that this object could have survived the crash. This device is designed to to help guide spacecraft into precise landings, just like the lights illuminating an airport runway. As the object might have most probably survived the crash, upcoming NASA missions could try to recover it from the lunar surface.

"Yes, we believe the laser reflector array would have survived the crash, although it may have separated from the main spacecraft body. Of course, we do not know the orientation of the array. It could be upside down, but it has a 120-degree angle of reception, and we only need 1 of the 0.5-inch cubes for detection. But it has certainly not made it any easier," said David Smith, principal investigator of the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) instrument aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft, reports.

The Beresheet spacecraft was launched on February 21, 2019. However, the crash spoiled all the ambitious dreams and Israel Aerospace Industries confirmed that the spacecraft was shattered into pieces at the landing site.

If the Beresheet landing was successful, it could have made Israel a superpower in the space race. Until now, only three countries, the Soviet Union, the United States, and China have succeeded in fulfilling a soft landing on the moon.