World Bulletin / News Desk
A small NASA lander being tested for missions to the moon and other destinations beyond Earth crashed and burned after veering off course during a trial run at theKennedy Space Center on Thursday, officials with the U.S. space agency said.
There were no injuries after the prototype, known as Morpheus, burst into flames near the runway formerly used by NASA's space shuttles.
The insect-like vehicle, designed and built by engineers at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, had made several flights attached to a crane before Thursday's attempted free-flight.
Morpheus' engines, which burn liquid oxygen and methane, appeared to ignite as planned, lifting the 1,750-pound (794 kg) vehicle into the air. But a few seconds later, Morpheus rolled over on its side and plummeted to the ground.
NASA video showed the vehicle engulfed in flames and then rocked by a spectacular explosion, presumably due to the fuel tanks rupturing.
“"Failures such as these were anticipated prior to the test, and are part of the development process for any complex spaceflight hardware," NASA said in a statement.
An investigation is under way, the statement added.
Project Morpheus began in partnership with privately owned Armadillo Aerospace, which is developing re-usable, suborbital vehicles that take off and land vertically.
NASA, which has spent about $7 million on the project over the past 2-1/2 years, is interested indeveloping technologies that could be used to fly cargo to the moon and other future missions beyond Earth orbit.
Project Morpheus was an example of what the former project manager called "“Home Depot engineering" - low-budget projects that use existing resources and partner with non-traditional aerospace companies.
“"The Morpheus lander is kind of our poster child. It's one of our first attempts to do these kinds of projects," former project manager Matt Ondler said in an interview with Reuters last year.
“"Instead of building some elaborate test structure, you go to Home Depot and build something very quickly that gets you 80 percent of the answer and allows you to keep moving forward," he said.
Morpheus arrived at Florida's seaside space center in July for three months of increasingly rigorous test flights, including automated landings in a mock moonscape, complete with craters and boulders.
The lander was designed to deliver about 1,100 pounds (500 kg) of cargo to the moon, NASA said on its Project Morpheus website.
Technologies being developed include a propulsion system that uses liquid oxygen and methane -- green fuels that could be manufactured on other planetary bodies, NASA said.
The accident happened as NASA scientists were still hailing the Mars rover Curiosity's descent and landing on the Red Planet earlier this week as a "“miracle of engineering."
A man left brain-dead after an experimental drug trial in France has died, local media report.
Facebook founder to donate majority of fortune over lifetime to newly formed charity
Facebook will appeal a date privacy ruling in Belgium that forces the social media giant to stop collecting digital information about people who are non-members
Japanese, Chinese, Irish scientists win 2015 Nobel prize in medicine for malaria and parasite research
Discovery could have major implications for pursuit of life on the red planet
Lawsuit sheds light on no poaching policy at Silicon Valley’s biggest companies
Searches for oncoming storms will display information such as maps, forecasts, reminders and preparedness instructions
New service unveiled as survey finds Americans having hard time navigating smartphone etiquette
Turkcell, Vodafone and Avea bid total of over €1.14 billion for the right to use frequencies on the new network
Petition 'will present at least two substantial questions concerning design-patent liability and damages'
The Istanbul Electric Tram and Tunnel Company plans to launch one solar-powered bus on Thursday and several more in the coming days
Roughly 70 million tonnes of fibres are traded globally per year, but nearly two thirds are made from non-renewable products like petroleum and natural gas.
Researchers havfe said that the flaw leaves data stored by apps vulnerable with almost every category of app considered vulnerable
SpaceX revealed Monday that it is building a test track for the Hyperloop, a concept for ultra-fast ground transport the company’s CEO, Elon Musk, unveiled.
Biologists have created chicken embryos with dinosaur-like faces by tinkering with the molecules that build the birds' beaks.
Product available for pre-order in nine countries but devices won’t ship for weeks.