NASA’s Newest Autonomous Lander Passes Flight Test

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PostSat Sep 08, 2012 3:48 am » by Evildweeb


NASA’s Newest Autonomous Lander Passes Flight Test

By Adam Mann
September 7, 2012 | 2:54 pm



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A prototype NASA lander completed a successful free flight on Sept. 5, helping to bring a new generation of landing vehicles closer to reality.


The Mighty Eagle flew up to 100 feet, identified an on-the-ground target with its onboard cameras, and then autonomously landed itself at the chosen spot. The successful flight is part of a series of incremental tests to mature this technology.

The prototype brings to mind earlier Apollo-era test crafts such as the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle, which nearly killed astronaut Neil Armstrong during a training maneuver in 1968.

The cute three-legged lander stands at 4 feet high and 8 feet in diameter, so it’s not designed to carry astronauts. Instead, NASA engineers are hoping that such a vehicle could one day autonomously land cargo and scientific instruments on the moon, an asteroid, or other airless body in the solar system.

It stands in contrast to NASA’s Morpheus Lander, a larger craft capable of bringing about 1,000 pounds to the lunar surface, which might include a robotic humanoid, small rover, or scientific laboratory. During its first untethered test on Aug. 9, Morpheus suffered an inglorious explosion after it flipped over shortly after liftoff.

The video below shows the Mighty Eagle in action during an earlier test on Aug. 8, when the vehicle flew 30 feet in the air.


Image: NASA/MSFC/Dennis Olive

Video: NASA Marshall TV


FULL STORY & VIDEO @ WIRED.COM

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/ ... oars-high/
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