Although having endured significant cuts in funding and facing stiff competition from private industry, NASA is reorganized and refocused with several large projects in the works.
Project Morpheus is one of NASA’s most ambitious programs to date. The goal is to send humans into space well beyond the moon, exploring (and even landing on) neighboring planets and asteroids. Since these missions will require extended periods of time traveling, NASA is developing a variety of vehicles that will provide astronauts a safe, sustainable, and habitable environment while in space or spending time on extraterrestrial ground.
The foundational vehicle NASA is testing is called Bravo, an autonomous lander capable of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL).
Even though the lander is far from complete, watching the prototype in action is impressive, which demonstrates highly accurate horizontal and vertical maneuverability. These landers will also be programmed for Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology (ALHAT), helping them find the most suitable spots for landing and a high degree of safety and reliability when navigating across uncharted and potentially dangerous planetary environments and obstacles.
Other features include non-toxic propellants (a mixture of liquid oxygen and liquid methane (LOX/methane) that is cheaper and lighter than traditional spacecraft fuels), and the ability to facilitate the generation of oxygen for astronauts and methane for harnessing energy.
After having successfully completed a series of free flights, Project Morpheus offers an exciting glimpse into the future of space travel and human planetary exploration.
Project Morpheus is being designed and developed in conjunction with the “Johnson Space Center and other NASA centers, commercial entities, and academic institutions.”