For every perfect landing like Curiosity, NASA has to go through dozens of failures. One project on the table is building a brand new, next generation moon lander, and one of the prototypes, nicknamed Morpheus, just went into the failure category. At least for now.
“The @MorpheusLander experienced a failure, causing it to catch fire,” NASA tweeted. “No one was injured. Information will be released as soon as possible.” In a statement, NASA said that, “During today’s 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.”
From the official Project Morpheus website:
Morpheus is a vertical test bed demonstrating new green propellant propulsion systems and autonomous landing and hazard detection technology. Designed, developed, manufactured and operated in-house by engineers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the Morpheus Project represents not only a vehicle to advance technologies, but also an opportunity to try out “lean development” engineering practices….
Morpheus is large enough to carry 1,100 pounds of cargo to the moon — for example, a humanoid robot, a small rover, or a small laboratory to convert moon dust into oxygen — performing all propellant burns after the trans lunar injection. The primary focus of the test bed is to demonstrate an integrated propulsion and guidance, navigation and control system that can fly a lunar descent profile to exercise the Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology (ALHAT) safe landing sensors and closed-loop flight control.
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