Sunday, May 4, 2014

NASA's Morpheus Lander: Prototype Touches Down on Mock Moonscape - Video

A prototype of NASA's Morpheus lander kicked up a cloud of fake moon dust as it touched down softly on a mock lunar landscape in Florida in this week.

On Wednesday (April 30), the Morpheus vehicle dubbed Bravo lifted off for its twelfth free-flight test at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

The robotic vehicle flew a pre-programmed path that launched it vertically, and then rose to an altitude of more than 800 feet (243 meters), NASA officials said in a description of a video of the mock moonscape flight.

After liftoff, Morpheus then flew sideways 1,300 feet (396 m), hovering over a 65-yard (59 m) square sandbox full of obstacles like rocks and craters.

NASA's Morpheus vehicle prototype is seen just after landing on a mock lunar surface during in this still from a NASA video recording at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida during an April 30, 2014 test flight.

Credit: NASA /Project Morpheus

NASA recently started testing its automated landing and hazard avoidance technology (ALHAT) installed on the vehicle.

This 400-pound suite of computers and three instruments is designed to scan the surface of a potential landing site for hazards, such as a dangerous boulder or crater, so that the spacecraft doesn't crash or tip over as it touches down.

The ALHAT technology mapped the square and identified a safe landing site 4.5 feet (1.4 m) east of the center of the landing pad and targeted that location to gently touch down on the mock lunar surface, NASA officials said.

Chirold Epp
"We've been working a long time, eight years, to prove we can do autonomous, precision landing and hazard avoidance and guidance," Chirold Epp, project manager for ALHAT, said in a NASA statement a week before the latest flight.

"We really need to show the world that everything we've been advertising for eight years works."

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