As budgets for space exploration grow ever-tighter, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has high hopes for a robotic space vehicle that will be much cheaper than its predecessors, not to mention more environmentally friendly.
Project Morpheus is constructing a lunar landing craft that uses an innovative fuel which combines liquid oxygen with methane, rather than the far more dangerous liquid hydrogen used in the past. The craft underwent a successful test firing of the latest version of its engine earlier this week.
As described by one blog which has been rooting for the project, “The spacecraft is designed from the ground up to be totally integrated and autonomous, with the capability of transporting 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) to the lunar surface. It’ll have on-board guidance and control systems, and should be able to make more or less the entire trip autonomously, including the final lunar descent and landing.”
This video of the test firing was uploaded to YouTube by MorpheusLander on February 28, 2012 and is featured on the project’s Facebook page.
This video, which uses some of the same footage but also includes more information on the project, is from Reuters, March 4, 2012.