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."
Spanish news publishers want government to negotiate with Google.
The Russian space station Mir, launched by the Soviet Union in 1986, operated until 2001 and President Vladimir Putin is now seeking to reform Russia's once-pioneering space industry
Google's action caps a decade of acrimony with news publishers who blame the search giant for revenue and readership declines
Top climate envoy gives broad support for global deal but says country's "special circumstances" must be factored.
Finnish cyber-security expert tells Istanbul audience that people have made gigantic IT companies billions in profits by providing private data for services.
The scientific observation of Pluto, its entourage of moons and other bodies in the solar system's frozen backyard begins Jan. 15
For the first time in more than 40 years, NASA has launched a spaceship designed to carry astronauts far beyond Earth
Benefits of digital revolution outweigh risks, Germany’s Chancellor says
Last month, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu vowed to make climate change a top priority when Turkey hosts next year’s G20 summit
The emails of Apple’s late CEO is being used as evidence in antitrust claim.
The report said the malware overrides data on hard drives of computers and can make them inoperable and shut down networks.
Among those hit were the London newspapers Daily Telegraph, Independent and Evening Standard, which reported that other news organisations had also been targeted.
The European Union's privacy watchdogs agreed on a set of guidelines to help them implement a ruling from Europe's supreme court that gives people the right to ask search engines to remove personal information
Iraq bars private companies from owning fixed networks transiting domestic data and anything they build is usually seized by the government.
The new crew faces a busy six months in orbit, including a trio of spacewalks to prepare the station for a new fleet of U.S. commercial space taxis