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NASA Takes A Peek At Crater Made By Beresheet Spacecraft On Moon

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Israel's Beresheet was supposed to be the first privately built spacecraft to land on the Moon but, on April 11, it lost contact with Earth and crashed.

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, flew by 11 days later and took a look at the aftermath. After a month, the U.S. space agency finally released the image of the impact site.

Beresheet's Lunar Resting Ground

The LRO has been in orbit around the Moon for a decade now. The LRO Camera, or LROC, has three imagers: a seven-color Wide Angle Camera and two black-and-white Narrow Angle Cameras.

The image was taken using the LROC on April 22 from about 90 kilometers above the surface. A dark smudge about 10 meters wide appears in the image, indicating a roughened surface caused by the hard landing.

Scientists at NASA could not say as of yet if the impact of Beresheet created a crater. They said that the impact could be too small to show up in the photos. The spacecraft could also have created a small indent instead of a crater.

"The light halo around the smudge could have formed from gas associated with the impact or from fine soil particles blown outward during Beresheet's descent, which smoothed out the soil around the landing site, making it highly reflective," the U.S. space agency wrote in a press release. "There are many clues that we're actually looking at a man-made crater instead of a meteoroid-caused one."

The LRO might take more images of the impact site when it passes over the same area on May 19.

Beresheet Crash Lands On The Moon

Beresheet, which means "in the beginning," launched on Feb. 22 aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9. However, mission control in Israel lost communication with the spacecraft when it was about 489 feet (149 meters) above the lunar surface. By the time the team regained control of the spacecraft, it was too late to brake. Beresheet crashed on the lunar surface.

While the mission was not a success, the spacecraft, which was built by SpaceIL and the Israel Aerospace Industries slipped into the lunar orbit. Israel became the seventh nation to successfully orbit the Moon.

SpaceIL is also not giving up. The nonprofit recently announced that Beresheet's successor is now in development.

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