NASA Lander Prototype Sets Grass Field Ablaze

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NASA engineers are forging ahead with a project to test a futuristic Moon lander, despite a grass fire that broke out during a June 1 test.

The fire started around 2:30 p.m. local time, during a tethered test of the Morpheus robot lander at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The Morpheus project is designed to test several cutting-edge technologies NASA is developing for manned deep space missions.

When the lander lifted off its concrete launch pad, it kicked up some of the concrete, which set off the fire in the dry field around it.

“It’s been really dry,” NASA spokeswoman Brandi Dean said. “They had done controlled burns around the area to try and prevent grass fires” but the fire sparked anyway.

Because the fire ignited nearby hay bales, which are hard to extinguish, NASA called in reinforcements from the Houston fire department and other local firefighters. It took firefighters a few hours to put out the flames.

Other than the fire, the test went exactly as planned, Dean said. “Actually the test went really well and Morpheus itself was fine.”

During the 30-second hover test, Morpheus was tethered to a crane for protection. NASA hopes to conduct the first untethered tests sometime this summer.

 

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