Curiosity trumped the impossible using an experimental mishmash of technology, but one of NASA's innovative test beds — which performed admirably in previous tethered flights — experienced a spectacular failure today. Morpheus doesn't look like its going to walk away from this one.
Morpheus, which just completed its 20th successful tether test earlier this week, finally ditched the training wheels and for the first time took the air free as a bird — for about seven seconds. After that, the craft careened to the side and started heading the wrong direction — toward the ground — with a lamentable result. NASA's currently pinning the problem on a "hardware component failure, which prevented [Morpheus] from maintaining stable flight." According to NASA, no one was hurt.
Here's the video (get ready to wince):
The Morpheus program is testing "new green propellant propulsion systems and autonomous landing and hazard detection technology," and is designed to autonomously deliver up to 1,100 pounds of equipment to the surface of the Moon. The propulsion system, which used a mix of liquid oxygen and methane, is attractive to NASA as it promises to be cheaper, last longer in storage in spacecraft and — explosive evidence notwithstanding — seen as a safer alternative to other fuels.