Israel’s first moon mission has encountered technical glitch as it journeys to the lunar surface. Following the successful launch of the Beresheet moon lander on Friday morning, engineers at the SpaceIL and the Israel Aerospace Industries found out that the spacecraft’s navigation sensors are sensitive to sunlight.
They discovered another problem earlier this week, which could delay the supposed eight-week voyage of the spacecraft to the moon.
Beresheet was scheduled to carry out a maneuver to increase the radius of its orbit around Earth 12 a.m. local time on Tuesday in Israel. The maneuver was supposed to take place automatically while the spacecraft was at a region where it would not have contact with ground controllers.
While preparations for the maneuver were underway, however, the spacecraft’s computer rebooted on its own automatically canceling the maneuver that was supposed to ensure Beresheet is on track for its April landing.
Engineers working on the mission did not encounter a similar problem during the simulations and are now looking into the data to understand what caused the unplanned reboot.
“The engineering teams of SpaceIL and IAI are examining the data and analyzing the situation,” SpaceIL representatives said in a statement.
“At this time, the spacecraft’s systems are working well, except for the known problem in the star tracker.”
SpaceIL CEO Ido Anteby said engineers will decide when to attempt another maneuver once they understand what caused the computer problem.
Plans for the orbital maneuvers have taken into account possible days of delays so if the problem gets fixed within the next two days, the spacecraft might just make it to the moon on schedule.
The 5 feet tall (1.5 meters) lander is expected to land on the lunar surface on April 11. Once there, the world’s first privately funded lunar mission will conduct scientific investigations such as measuring the magnetic field of the moon. It carries with it a 30-million-page archive containing the history of the human civilization.