Zoom! Morpheus Robot Skitters Across Sky Before Touching Down Near Target

by Elizabeth Howell on March 6, 2014

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And we have a big foom and a big flight! The Morpheus prototype lander, which is intended to see how well automated technologies would work to fly spacecraft and land them on other planets, finished up its latest free-flight test yesterday. You can see the results in the latest video above, and we have a link to past videos below the jump.

The robot soared 467 feet high (142 meters) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida before doing a planned sideways move that brought it 637 feet (194 m) in 36 seconds. It also did a mid-course correction to avoid a planned obstacle before touching down about 10 inches from its target. The flight lasted 79 seconds in all.

“Initial data indicates a nominal flight meeting all test objectives,” the team stated on its YouTube video. “The Morpheus Team again demonstrated engineering and operational excellence, relying upon training, discipline and experience to ensure today’s success.”

After overcoming an early setback that saw a lander crash and burn, Morpheus has been regularly doing free flights and in some cases, getting quite high off the ground (such as this flight last month that went as high as the Great Pyramid). And by the way, if that’s not enough rocket power for you today, there’s a lot more historical video where that flight came from. Check out this link on the Morpheus webpage to scroll back through its past free flights and tethered tests.

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)

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, 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.

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