NASA’s experimental prototype Morpheus moon lander exploded during a free-flight test on Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center.
The Morpheus is NASA’s first experimental “green” moon lander. Unfortunately, the craft crashed during its first free-flight test, reports Space.com. The lander capsule tipped over and crashed, catching fire and erupting into flames once it hit the ground. It exploded around 12:40 pm. “[The] vehicle lifted off the ground and then experienced a hardware component failure, which prevented it from maintaining stable flight,” said NASA spokeswoman Laurel Lichtenberger, according to CFNews 13. “No one was injured, and the resulting fire was extinguished by KSC fire personnel.”
Morpheus implements a lot of experimental tech, most notably, a new green propellant propulsion system and autonomous landing and hazard detection technology. The Morpheus project is considered a low-cost and lean project by NASA, costing less than $7 million over 2.5 years. According to the Houston Chronicle, the crash is a “reminder that spaceflight remains a real challenge.”
The Morpheus project’s propellant combination – liquid oxygen and methane – is particularly interesting because it allows for longer storage in space, as compared to other propellants like liquid hydrogen. It’s cheaper to test and use than other fuels, as well. The Morpheus project is just one of 20 small projects part of NASA’s larger Advanced Exploration Systems program.
“Engineers are looking into the incident, and the agency will release information as it comes available,” said Lichtenberger.
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