Why is it so difficult to make a successful moon landing?

Video credit: TomoNews US
Published on September 17, 2019 - Duration: 01:52s

Why is it so difficult to make a successful moon landing?

SPACE — Both Israel and India failed to successfully land lunar probes on the moon earlier this year because of a chain of malfunctions that occurred during the final stages of descent.

Israel's Beresheet lander crashed during a landing attempt on April 11.

India's Vikram moon lander, which was part of the country's Chandrayaan-2 mission, crashed while attempting to land on September 6.

The Beresheet lander crashed due to a malfunction that caused its main engine to shut down, according to Space.com The Beresheet team lost connection with the lunar lander when it was around 150 meters away from the moon's surface.

At the time, the lander was traveling at speeds of up to 500 kilometers per hour.

Though the team successfully restarted the spacecraft's engine before it crashed, it was unable to control the lunar probe's landing as the lander was traveling too fast and was too close to the moon's surface.

The Vikram Lander had diverged from its original path when it reached an altitude of 2.1 kilometers, the New York Times reports.

Shortly after, communication between the lander and the Indian spacecraft operators stopped.

One of the reasons the last stage of a moon landing is challenging is because the lunar lander has to carry out a series of complex tasks in a matter of minutes for the lunar probe to land successfully, reports Business Insider.

As the lander approaches the moon's surface, it has to adjust to the moon's uneven gravitational pull, which is stronger in some regions than others.

Scientists believe this may be due to the fact that some areas of the moon have a higher concentration of mass underneath the surface.

The lander also has to watch out for the moon's rocky terrain and moon dust, also called regolith, which could interfere with spacecraft equipment as the lander makes its descent.

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