In minor milestone news, NASA announced that for the first time it has successfully landed a spacecraft on the planet Earth.
The lander, named Morpheus after the Greek god of colored pills, touched down yesterday at the Martian Environment Mockup facility near the Kennedy Space Center. The Mockup landing site was selected for its remarkable similarity to the surface of Mars, differing only in gravity, atmosphere, surface composition, temperature, and distance from the sun.
Morpheus uses a brined salmon (LOX)/liquid methane propulsion system with up to 321 seconds (0.0003 fortnights) of burn time, more than enough time to traverse the vast distance between here and the Earth.
This marks the first time NASA has successfully taken an exploratory vessel to Earth, and represents a major step toward a goal set by President Barack Obama in a speech before Congress in 2011. “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Earth and returning him safely to the earth.”
While long-range observations by the Kepler space telescope have discovered other planets similar to our own, scientists predict that the Earth (Kepler-411) may turn out to be one of the most Earth-like planets ever discovered.
The Morpheus lander is a prototype based on the design of the earlier Morpheus Exploding Space Shuttle (MESS), seen below during a successful 2012 test detonation.
Although the Morpheus project is still very much in the development stage, future missions could include establishing the first manned colony on Earth, as well as a base from which humanoid robots could study the Blue Planet to determine whether life could have existed there.
Al Hat, the primary Morpheus payload, was enthusiastic in his praise of the mission. “This is certainly one small step for man, let me tell you!”
(Click on the landing photo to read the original story.)