Israeli and American scientists have selected a landing site for the Beresheet spacecraft, scheduled to reach its destination in the coming days.
Prof. Oded Aharonson of the Weizmann Institute of Science and his team of scientists, working with the SpaceIL engineers, focused on ensuring a safe landing, searching for sites with relatively few craters, exposed rocks or steep slopes within the landing area that could jeopardize the touchdown. In addition, the scientists searched for a location on the Moon where the crust is magnetic, so as to allow the magnetometer on board the spacecraft to carry out its investigations.
Measuring the magnetism of lunar rocks will enable researchers to address outstanding questions about the Moon.
Site selection was made in collaboration with Prof. Jim Head of Brown University, a member of the SpaceIL team and veteran of the NASA Apollo program. “On the basis of our experience with Apollo, the Serenitatis sites favor both landing safety and scientific reward,” he said.
The place is in the northeastern part of Mare Serenitatis, a few hundreds of miles east of the Apollo 15 landing site and a similar distance northwest of the Apollo 17 site. Three optional landing sites (primary and two backups) were identified. The terrain in these locations is composed of material characteristic of ancient mare surfaces on which successful landings have been made (most recently Chang’E 3 and 4).
“Lunar magnetism has been an enigma for decades. It is a privilege to be part of this mission that’s taking one more step towards solving it,” said Aharonson.