The film, Budget Mission to the Moon, is due to air on the National Geographic channel 23 April 23 at 9pm. After eight years of development, Beresheet – which means Genesis in Hebrew – was launched from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on Friday, January 22 on Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket Falcon 9. However, scientists at Mission Control in Yehud, Israel were left devastated when things went drastically wrong, with the result that it was completely destroyed as it ploughed into the lunar surface.
Researchers working on the documentary said there was not yet a comprehensive explanation of what had caused the catastrophic failure.
Initially indications suggested a telemetry error resulted in the craft approaching too fast, compounded by an engine/communication failure.
Describing it as a “snowball of small errors”, they suggested it was “very difficult to point to one thing” which had derailed the mission.
A spokesman added: “The first sign of trouble came at about 19:21 UTC, when flight controllers reported one of Beresheet’s inertial measuring units had reset, temporarily shutting off the flow of telemetry.
“It was unclear if this was related to the engine problem that ultimately doomed the spacecraft.
“Roughly a minute later, a telemetry indicator for Beresheet’s velocity turned red, indicating what may have been a higher-than-expected 74.9 metres per second vertical approach speed.
“Shortly thereafter, indicator lights for Beresheet’s engines blinked off, and an official in mission control announced there was a problem with the spacecraft’s main engine.
“The main engine came back online, but at that point, the spacecraft’s altitude showed just 149 meters, while its vertical speed was still 134 meters per second, and its horizontal speed was 947 meters per second.
“At that point, all telemetry from the spacecraft stopped, and ground observers reported a loss of signal at 19:23.”
Scientists had hoped to land Beresheet’s magnetometer, digital time capsule, and laser retroreflector on the Moon – as well as a bible.
A time capsule was also on board the lander – which included a picture of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died on the space shuttle Columbia in 2003 – as well as a lunar library containing 30 million pages on a disk from the US-based Arch Mission Foundation.
Mr Ramon’s widow, Rona, who was a big supporter of Beresheet, died of cancer in December.
Doron Opher, general manager of the space division of Israel Aerospace Industries, said: “It seems that a failure in our inertial measurements unit caused a chain of events in the spacecraft avionics which cut off the engines and caused us to lose the mission.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was on hand for what organisers had hoped to be a celebration, said: “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.”
Budget Mission to the Moon airs on National Geographic on Tuesday, April 23 at 9pm.