Genesis (“Beresheet” in Hebrew), Israel’s first spacecraft on its way to land on the moon, is having some complications. After the launch on Friday morning, engineers from the SpaceIL organization and Israel Aerospace Industries discovered that sensors on the craft needed for navigation are overly sensitive to sunlight. They discovered another problem with the robotic spacecraft on Monday which could delay its reaching the moon.
Around midnight between Monday and Tuesday, Genesis was scheduled to carry out another
But while the preparations for the maneuver were underway, the spacecraft’s computer performed an unplanned reboot on its own. The restart cancelled the maneuver, and it continued in its original orbit. The engineers responsible for Genesis’ operations are analyzing the data and trying to understand what caused the reboot, and what its implications may be.
Every time Genesis completes an orbit it executes
This is how it will eventually reach
Genesis was privately built by the non-profit group SpaceIL in cooperation with Israel Aeronautics Industries. SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby told reporters in a conference call that before beginning the maneuver, Genesis’ systems carry out an orientation movement and calibrate the navigation systems. “At this stage, the spacecraft’s computer conducted an independent reset, so the maneuver was cancelled,” he said.
Once the engineers understand what caused the problem with the computer, they will decide when to try to repeat the maneuver, said Anteby. Opher Doron, the head of the IAI’s space division, said that he is not especially worried at the moment: “The faster we understand what happened, we will be able to prevent the problem from happening again.”
The planning of the orbital maneuvers included a number of days for delays, so if the problem is fixed within the next two days, the spacecraft can reach the moon according to the original schedule, said the two.
The maneuver isn’t the first setback that Genesis has faced: The first problem was with one of the positioning systems, called
After the launch, it became
Genesis was successfully launched late Thursday night from Cape Canaveral. After 33 minutes it separated from the booster rocket and started circling the earth. It is expected to land on the moon on April 11 and would be the smallest vehicle to accomplish that. One of SpaceIL’s founders, Yariv Bash, said that “the launch was cool, but the hard part is ahead of us.”
It will travel 6.5 million kilometers, the longest trajectory of any spacecraft that’s gone from Earth to the moon. The $100 million price tag is significantly lower than previous expeditions. If successful, Israel will be the fourth country to land on the moon.