NASA’s Morpheus lander destroyed in fiery crash at Cape Canaveral
Engineers still looking into cause of accident
A small NASA lander being tested for missions to the moon and other destinations beyond Earth crashed and burned after veering off course during a trial run at the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday, officials with the U.S. space agency said.
There were no injuries after the prototype, known as Morpheus, burst into flames near the runway formerly used by NASA’s space shuttles.
The insect-like vehicle, designed and built by engineers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, had made several flights attached to a crane before Thursday’s attempted free-flight.
Morpheus’ engines, which burn liquid oxygen and methane, appeared to ignite as planned, lifting the 1,750-pound (794 kg) vehicle into the air. But a few seconds later, Morpheus rolled over on its side and plummeted to the ground.
NASA video showed the vehicle engulfed in flames and then rocked by a spectacular explosion, presumably due to the fuel tanks rupturing.
“Failures such as these were anticipated prior to the test, and are part of the development process for any complex spaceflight hardware,” NASA said in a statement.
An investigation is under way, the statement added.