Monday, May 23, 2011

NASA Plans Test of New Moon Lander Morpheus

Moon Lander Morpheus
A squat, insectlike contraption is set to fly untethered for the first time soon in a NASA test of technologies designed to take humans to the moon, Mars or beyond.

The unmanned Morpheus lander, named after the Greek god of dreams, was built at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston using cutting-edge technologies that the agency hopes will one day enable manned missions to another planet or even an asteroid. The vehicle, about the size of an SUV, could carry about 1,100 pounds (500 kg) of cargo to the moon.

Not only are the technologies onboard innovative, but NASA's process of building the lander is, too.

"Part of what this project set out to do was to question the way we've done things," Project Morpheus manager Matt Ondler told "We purposefully set out to see if we could do things faster and cheaper, leveraging off the work that was already done."

So far, the project has cost NASA about $4 million over the last 18 months, not counting the NASA work force, which is accounted for under NASA's general overhead.

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