Project Morpheus NASA CNN Student News

Project Morpheus is a NASA project that began in 2010 to develop a vertical takeoff and vertical landing (VTVL) test vehicle called the Morpheus Lander. It is intended to demonstrate a new nontoxic spacecraft propellant system (methane and oxygen) and an autonomous landing and hazard detection technology. The prototype planetary lander is capable of autonomous flight, including vertical takeoff and landings. The vehicles are NASA-designed robotic landers that will be able to land and take off with 1,100 pounds (500 kg) of cargo on the Moon. The prospect is an engine that runs reliably on propellants that are not only cheaper and safer here on Earth, but could also be potentially manufactured on the Moon and Mars. (See: In-situ resource utilization. )

Earth's Moon Reveals An Ancient Secret. Many astronomers think that during an ancient era, termed the Late Heavy Bombardment, our young Moon was violently battered by a marauding multitude of invading asteroids that crashed onto its newly formed surface. This attack of pelting objects from space occurred about 4 billion years ago, and the shower of crashing asteroids excavated impact craters, and also slashed open deep fissures, in the lunar crust. This sustained shower of merciless impacts increased lunar porosity, and opened up an intertwining network of large seams under the Moon's surface. Until 2004, no spacecraft had visited Saturn for more than twenty years. Pioneer 11 took the very first close-up images of Saturn when it flew past in 1979. After that flyby, Voyager 1 had its rendezvous about a year later, and in August 1981 Voyager 2 had its brief, but glorious, encounter. Nearly a quarter of a century then passed before new high-resolution images of this beautiful, ringed planet were beamed back to Earth. Since its discovery centuries ago, Ganymede has been the target of a great deal of well-deserved attention from the planetary science community. Earth-bound telescopes have gazed at Ganymede's puzzling, icy surface and, in later decades, flyby space missions and spacecraft, circling around Jupiter, have scrutinized Ganymede--trying to solve its numerous mysteries. These observations ultimately unveiled a complicated, icy moon-world, whose bizarre surface showed a strange and puzzling contrast between its two main types of terrain: the dark, extremely ancient and heavily cratered surface terrain, and the much younger--but still ancient--lighter terrain showing a vast array of mysterious grooves and ridges.