Morpheus Bravo is an autonomous take-off and landing spacecraft NASA is using to test a variety of lander technologies.
A prototype Morpheus lander from NASA named Bravo landed safely on a mock lunar landscape this week in Florida as part of its twelfth test flight at the Kennedy Space Center.
The robotic vehicle uses automated landing and hazard avoidance technology (ALHAT) with a 400-pound suite of computers and three instruments that scan potential landing sites for hazards so it doesn't crash or tip over.
Bravo flew a pre-programmed path that launched it vertically, and then rose to an altitude of more than 800 feet, according to NASA officials.
"We've been working a long time, eight years, to prove we can do autonomous, precision landing and hazard avoidance and guidance," Chirold Epp, project manager for ALHAT, said in a NASA statement a week before the latest flight. "We really need to show the world that everything we've been advertising for eight years works."
The lander then flew sideways 1,300 feet and hovered over a 65-yard square sandbox full of obstacles like rocks and craters.
Photos: NASA's Project Morpheus Robot Lander
Bravo is intended to fly to the moon with up to a 1,100-pound payload, perhaps consisting of a humanoid robot, a rover or a fuel lab, NASA officials say.
The Morpheus lander uses liquid oxygen and methane, or so-called green propellants, that NASA says are safer and cheaper than traditional rocket fuels because they can be stored in space longer.