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NASA's Morpheus Moon Lander Crashes During Trial Run

Aug 10, 2012 07:30 AM EDT
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NASA's small moon lander crashed and burst into flames during a test run at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Thursday, according to reports from the U.S. Space agency.

The model known as Morpheus lifted off the ground successfully but burst into flames due to a hardware failure. The incident has happened just days after NASA's curiosity rover landed successfully on the Mars.

"A hardware component failure, which prevented it from maintaining stable flight was to blame," NASA said in a statement.

"Failures such as these were anticipated prior to the test, and are part of the development process for any complex spaceflight hardware," the space agency said, adding "What we learn from these tests will help us build the best possible system in the future."

No one was reported injured in the incident. The space agency also noted that the engineers are investigating as to what caused the hardware failure but no details are out yet.

NASA's Project Morpheus lander arrived at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on July 27 for three months of rigorous test flights after undergoing an year-long testing at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Earlier on Aug. 3, the KSC team successfully flew out the model with a crane attached for a stable flight, after which the first ever free flight of Morpheus was approved.

A NASA-designed vehicle, Morpheus is capable of carrying 1,100 pounds of cargo to the moon. The space agency has spent over $7 million on the project which is a vertical test bed vehicle for developing environmental-friendly new green propulsion systems with liquid oxygen and methane, for autonomous landing and to detect hazards. The project was developed in partnership with privately-owned Armadillo Aerospace.

Morpheus is considered as a prospective moon lander to carry a humanoid robot or a small laboratory to convert the moon dust into oxygen.

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