The first ever privately funded moon mission is already underway, with the Beresheet shuttle taking off last Friday. The mission, which is Israel's first lunar mission and the only one to have been supported by private investors, went smoothly until an unexplained IT problem sent the probe engineers a loop.
According to SpaceIL, the start-up behind the mission, the spacecraft had to perform a maneuver that allowed it to make its way to the moon, but something went wrong. Just before leaving, the spacecraft computers restarted unexpectedly, canceling the controls and now the Beresheet lander on its already established orbit.
Beresheet does not cut a straight line between the Earth and the Moon, because such a mission would require incredible power and that the simple spacecraft is not designed for such things. Instead, it was first launched into an elliptical orbit around the Earth, which gradually lengthens as Beresheet performs careful maneuvers to move it away from home. Finally, the orbit will place it close enough to the Moon so that it can jump into the lunar orbit and eventually land.
Space shuttle maneuvers have to be done precisely so that it ends at the right place and at the right time to jump to the moon, but that just did not happen this time.
"During the pre-maneuver phase, the spacecraft computer was unexpectedly reset, resulting in the automatic cancellation of the maneuver," said SpaceIL in a statement. "The SpaceIL and IAI engineering teams are reviewing the data and analyzing the situation. At present, the spacecraft systems are working well, with the exception of the known problem of the star follower. "
The team still does not know how or why this unexpected restart occurred, or how it might affect the mission. It will obviously be necessary for the planned move to be attempted again to get it back on track, but nothing is certain for the moment.