NASA may have successfully landed a rover on Mars, but the new test model planetary lander Morpheus crashed and burned here on Earth. Morpheus is the so called "green" lander.
Earlier this week NASA safely landed a robotic rover on Mars 350 million miles (563 million kilometers) away. But on Thursday here on Earth, a test model planetary lander crashed and burned at Kennedy Space Center in the state of Florida just seconds after liftoff.
The spider-like $7 million spacecraft called Morpheus was on a test flight at Cape Canaveral when it tilted, crashed to the ground and erupted in flames.
NASA spokeswoman Lisa Malone said it appears that the methane-and-liquid oxygen powered lander is a total loss. Nobody was hurt in the unmanned experiment and the flames were put out, she said.
In a statement, NASA said it was probably more a mechanical failure than some type of control issue.
Morpheus is a prototype for a cheap, environmentally friendly planetary lander. Thursday was the first time it had been tested untethered in a free flight. It had performed about 20 flights at Johnson Space Center in Houston, where it was designed and made, but it was always tethered to a crane, NASA spokesman Kelly Humphries said.