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NASA's Morpheus lander detects hazards, noisily passes tethered flight test (video)

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While it's not landing on Mars any time soon, NASA took a breather from Curiosity's adventures to showcase the Morpheus Lander. The prototype went through its first (tethered) flight test at the Kennedy Space Center just before the weekend, showcasing its methane-powered rocket system. It's this rocket setup which could make the Morpheus Lander a strong candidate for future landings. It's both safer than rocket fuel and NASA suggests that methane gas discarded from the International Space Station could be enough to top up the lander's fuel tanks without necessitating a visit back to Earth. Morpheus' built-in guidance system also reduces the amount of input needed from mission control -- the pod has been practicing hard on its own hazard field near the Space Center. After passing the test with its training wheels on, the first free flight descent has been tentatively penned in for later today. Crank the volume low -- it gets loud -- and watch Morpheus test those right rockets after the break.

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