NASA Planning Next Flight Tests for Morpheus
December 16th, 2013 | WMFE- NASA successfully flew a planetary lander to a height of 164 feet in a test flight at the Kennedy Space Center Tuesday afternoon.
[Morpheus fueling up before its test flight. Photo courtesy of NASA]
The Morpheus Lander took off just after 1:30pm, for a one minute twenty second flight, reaching an altitude of 50 meters.
NASA says the rocket propelled prototype touched down within three inches of its target in a rocky field designed to simulate the surface of the moon.
Project manager Jon Olansen says the vehicle can sense and avoid hazards autonomously, unlike the lunar landers used in the Apollo program.
“So instead of flying manually and trying to avoid them which is what happened back then, we’re trying to provide the technology to avoid those hazards, says Olansen.
"And that can be done automatically and it can be done in any lighting conditions.”
Olansen says this could allow a spacecraft to land in scientifically more interesting sites on the moon or other planets.
In January NASA will begin the next set of flight tests, with the aim of getting the prototype to fly to an altitude of 250 meters and travel a distance of 500 meters.
Future missions where the technology could be used include landing a humanoid robot or a rover on the moon.