NASA Moon Lander Prototype Explodes During Test Flight
After the successful landing of Mars rover about 150 million miles away, NASA is faces a failure when it's experimental 'green' lander crashed during its first free-flight test on August 9.
The low-cost Project Morpheus lander prototype, designed to carry cargo to the moon and other space destinations, lifted off the ground successfully but then failed its first autonomous free-flight test at the Kennedy Space Center.
During the free-flight test of the Project Morpheus vehicle, it lifted off the ground and then experienced a hardware component failure, which prevented it from maintaining stable flight," NASA officials said in a statement. "No one was injured, and the resulting fire was extinguished by KSC fire personnel. Engineers are looking into the incident, and the agency will release information as it becomes available."
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The NASA officials also stated that the Morpheus lander is powered by liquid oxygen and methane propellants, which are safer and cheaper to operate than traditional fuels and can be stored for longer periods in space. It is also testing out automated landing-hazard avoidance technology, which would use lasers to spot dangerous boulders or craters on the surface of another world.
The robotic Morpheus lander, which is about the size of an SUV, was built and assembled at JSC and the facilities of private spaceflight firm Armadillo Aerospace. The vehicle could deliver about 1,100 pounds (500 kilograms) of cargo to the moon, NASA officials say. With some modifications, its precision landing system could also be used to help a probe rendezvous with an asteroid in deep space.
Nasa promoted Morpheus as a 'green' project because methane is more environmentally friendly than the toxic rocket fuels it uses. Methane, which is the main component of natural gas, is also cheaper and could even be made from ice on the moon or Mars.