A photographic search by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has discovered the crash site of the ill-fated Israeli Beresheet moon lander. By making a series of comparison images, NASA and Arizona State University have confirmed the area where the privately operated unmanned spacecraft impacted the lunar surface on April 11, leaving behind a dark smudge.

Beresheet (Hebrew for "Genesis") was the first attempt by a private organization to place a lander on the Moon. Built and operated by the non-profit SpaceIL group, the former Google Lunar X-Prize contender was the smallest lander ever sent to the Moon with a mass of only 1,322 lb (600 kg). It crashed on the Moon during its landing descent when its engine failed to fire as programmed, resulting in it hitting the lunar surface at 2,200 mph (3,600 km/h) at an angle of under 10°.

The LRO passed over the suspected impact site on April 22 and the onboard narrow-angle camera was able to take six images in three left/right pairs, which showed a dark smudge that had not been there previously had appeared at 32.5956°N by 19.3496°E, which is in the northwest quadrant of the Sea of Tranquility at an elevation of about 2,613 m (8,570 ft).

Closer examination of the images shows that the smudge is about 10 m (33 ft) across and is about 10 percent darker than the surrounding area. No crater is visible, though this may be due to the lighting angle, being too small to see, or the lander having disintegrated on impact. The area around the smudge is 20 percent brighter than normal, which may be caused by gases or high-speed particles from the crash smoothing the Moon's upper surface layer.

According to the LRO project, the impact site combined with studies of the impact of the two GRAIL and LADEE spacecraft may lead to a better understanding of how lunar regolith evolves.

SpaceIL has already announced that it is working on Beresheet 2.

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