NASA's Experimental Lander Just Completed One Of The Coolest Launches We've Seen

NASA just performed a successful test of its Morpheus lander in one of the coolest launches we’ve seen lately.

The Morpheus lander is a reusable, rocket-powered prototype vehicle that’s designed to land on planets (like Mars) without a crew of humans. It uses lasers to scan the field for a safe landing site, generally one that is flat and free of big rocks or craters.

This technology is similar to the SpaceX Grasshopper, which is also a vertical take-off and landing rocket. In previous tests, the Grasshopper reached a height of more than 2,500 feet and even flew sideways before returning to its landing spot.

While the Morpheus project has been criticised before for lagging behind SpaceX, the latest test shows a great deal of progress.

Here’s the view of Morpheus on Wednesday, April 2, completing its seventh free flight at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During the 96-second flight, the spacecraft reached a height of 800 feet and traveled a distance of 1,300 feet.

You can just barely see it as a dot here in the sky. The view from the lander itself is in the upper-right corner.

It eventually made a soft landing in its designated landing area, kicking up a lot of dust on the way.

Here’s another impressive flight, from March 11, in which the lander reached an elevation of 581 feet, travelling a distance of 837 feet and hitting a top speed of 30 mph.

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