Foom! Morpheus Project Lander Roars In Free Flight Test

by Elizabeth Howell on December 11, 2013

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NASA's Morpheus Project -- a prototype for vertical landing and takeoff for other planets -- during a free flight test Dec. 10, 2013. Credit: NASA (@MorpheusLander Twitter feed)

NASA’s Morpheus Project — a prototype for vertical landing and takeoff for other planets — during a free flight test Dec. 10, 2013. Credit: NASA (@MorpheusLander Twitter feed)

What an otherworldly experience, without having to leave Earth! The Morpheus Project wrapped up a successful free-flight test yesterday. That picture above is just to whet your appetite for the actual video, which you can see (and definitely hear) after the jump below.

“WOOOOHOOOOO! How about them apples?!” the @MorpheusLander Twitter feed said shortly after the test wrapped up with a takeoff, hover and landing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. “Successful #FREEFLIGHT @NASAKennedy today!” the feed added later. “Get ready for us to #increasetheawesome as we progress through our tests!”

The team is of course analyzing the data to see how successful this free flight was for the planetary landing prototype that NASA is testing.

NASA’s goal with Morpheus is to demonstrate landing technologies at low cost, to possibly bring on to planetary missions in the future — and ultimately, human ones as well.

The project has had some setbacks, with one prototype crashing and burning last year. Redesigns were implemented. One test in June also saw a “soft abort” as the lander moved out of a safety zone, but then a fully successful test shortly afterwards.

“The Morpheus project and the Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology (ALHAT) project provide technological foundations for key components of the greater exploration architecture necessary to move humans beyond low Earth orbit (LEO),” the project stated on its website.


Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

cschur December 11, 2013 at 1:27 PM

Ok, tell me if Im wrong, but Ive seen this demonstration back in the mid 60s, and it was being flown by an actual person as well. This led to the LEM. And then, space X released thier version of the hopper. This here is all we can do after nearly 50 years of development?

Hans Marius December 11, 2013 at 1:57 PM

What is the smoke/steam comming out on top of it? Is it some kind of gas generator for the liquid fuel turbine pump?

Aqua4U December 11, 2013 at 1:59 PM

That and/or simple excess pressure release?

ren00r December 11, 2013 at 7:06 PM

release of excessive steam from the built-in steam engine :)

Aqua4U December 11, 2013 at 1:57 PM

The development of a methane LOX rocket engine with this capability is good news for future Mars missions! Methane can be made using carbon dioxide and water… which appears to be available at Mars.

I can’t help but notice how HOT the exhaust gases are!

VCP December 11, 2013 at 7:01 PM

New Amazon delivery method.

Lorin Ionita December 12, 2013 at 2:27 AM

So loud. If it’s that loud on a video, I wonder how it would be close up.

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