Recently in the Lander Category


NASA demonstrated that it can land an unmanned spacecraft on a rugged planetary surface in the pitch dark in a May 28, 2014 free-flight test of the Morpheus prototype lander and Autonomous Landing Hazard Avoidance Technology, or ALHAT.

The first free flight of a Morpheus prototype lander was conducted Dec. 10, 2013, at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility.

Mars, Everest, and Tricorders

Ocean Optics Spectrometers Land Safely on Mars

"Three Ocean Optics instruments have completed their eight month journey to Mars to study soil composition as part of the ChemCam mission. The company's modular Jaz spectrometer scaled Mt. Everest with a team that included NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski to measure solar irradiance at extreme altitude."

Using a Tricorder on Mount Everest

"If you've ever seen a Starfleet away team beaming down to a new planet, you know that the first thing they do is whip out their tricorder and scan everything. Many of NASA's astrobiologists want one. Well, Scott and I had one at Everest."

Keith's note: I carried this cool device up to Everest Base Camp and then Scott carried it up the mountain. Its not unusual for people to trek into Everest with the latest high tech gear on display but every time I pulled this thing out people stopped to watch me go through my procedure. I took this promo photo of Scott using the Jaz unit while we were standing next to our tents at Everest Base Camp. An instant later we heard a loud noise coming from the icefall. An instant later I switched my camera from still to video and shot this video. This was one of the largest avalanches in recent seasons. Had I not been taking the PR shot of Scott and the Jaz unit I'd have missed most of this avalanche.

Morpheus Tether Test #16

NASA Video: Morpheus Tether Test #16

"The Morpheus vertical test bed successfully executed a 16th tether test on June 11, 2012. This was the first flight after the team integrated ALHAT (Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology) into the vehicle."

A Washington State University astrobiologist is leading a group of 20 scientists in calling for a mission to Mars with "a strong and comprehensive life detection component." At the heart of their proposal is a small fleet of sensor packages that can punch into the Martian soil and run a range of tests for signs of ancient or existing life.

Astrobotic's Moon Rover

Astrobotic Technology Reveals Design for Robot to Prospect at Moon's Poles

"Astrobotic Technology unveiled its new Polaris lunar rover design, which will prospect for potentially rich deposits of water ice, methane and other resources at the moon's north pole in three years. A powerful Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX will launch Polaris from Cape Canaveral in late October 2015. Four days later Polaris will land during north pole summer, when patches of ground that are in cold shadow most of the year get brief illumination. This is where ice will be found closest to the surface, and when a solar-powered robot will get the sunlight needed to sustain exploration. Polaris will search for ice for the next 12 days until sundown in early November."

Pop-Up Robots on Mars?

In New Mass-production Technique, Robotic Insects Spring to Life, Harvard University

"A new technique inspired by elegant pop-up books and origami will soon allow clones of robotic insects to be mass-produced by the sheet. Devised by engineers at Harvard, the ingenious layering and folding process enables the rapid fabrication of not just microrobots, but a broad range of electromechanical devices. In prototypes, 18 layers of carbon fiber, Kapton (a plastic film), titanium, brass, ceramic, and adhesive sheets have been laminated together in a complex, laser-cut design. The structure incorporates flexible hinges that allow the three-dimensional product--just 2.4 millimeters tall--to assemble in one movement, like a pop-up book."

Keith's note: Imagine if NASA could achieve packing density for its spacecraft like this - especially for landers. On Mars, for example, swarms of flying probes, covered with photovoltaic materials, armed with sensors, could fan out from a landing site to take measurements. Or a larger glider or balloon coudl release them over a larger area and have them report data back while they are within communications range.

Mighty Eagle Lander Test Reaches Higher

NASA Flies Mighty Eagle Lander Prototype to New Heights (With Video)

"NASA successfully completed the final flight in a series of tests of a new robotic lander prototype at the Redstone Test Center's propulsion test facility on the U.S. Army Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala. Data from this test series will aid in the design and development of a new generation of small, smart, versatile robotic landers capable of performing science and exploration research on the surface of the moon or other airless bodies in the solar system, such as asteroids or the planet Mercury."

Video: Masten Xombie Pad-to-Pad Flight

"Here's a video from a camera on Xombie looking down at the ground during a pad-to-pad flight that you might recognize as almost identical to the flight path flown during the Lunar Lander Challenge. In this case, we had about 60 lbs of payload at the top of the vehicle and she handled it with ease!"

Vermont Lunar Cubesat Project

CubeSat Documentary, Geek Mountain State

"A couple of weeks ago, we posted up a notification that Vermont Public Television would be airing a documentary on Vermont scientists working on a CubeSat project. Now, the documentary is online for your viewing pleasure" Watch video at UVM

NASA to Launch Vermont's CubeSat in 2012

"NASA's 2010 CubeSat Launch Initiative Competition has been awarded a launch slot to the Vermont CubeSat Lunar Lander Project. Faculty and students from Vermont Technical College, Norwich University, UVM and St. Michael's College are developing the satellite for this launch opportunity. It will be launched into Low Earth Orbit as part of a NASA launch payload in 2012. The single-unit CubeSat for this launch will perform critical on-orbit testing of the robotic navigation system that will autonomously guide the eventual three-unit CubeSat Lunar Lander package into a lunar orbit, followed by a landing on the Moon."

Vermont Lunar CubeSat Project

NASA Mighty Eagle Lander Test Postponed

NASA Postpones Nov. 4 Robotic Lander Test

"NASA has postponed Friday's 10:30 a.m. CDT 100-foot robotic lander altitude flight test to allow engineers more time to assess data from a recent test regarding an issue with the vehicle's propellant usage. The test now is targeted for no earlier than Friday, Nov. 9, from the U.S. Army Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala. On Thursday, managers from the Robotic Lander Development Project at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., decided that more time is needed to analyze the test data to confirm the vehicle's propellant rate usage."

NASA's Robotic Lander Development Project in Huntsville, Ala., has successfully completed seven autonomous outdoor flight tests of a lander prototype, dubbed Mighty Eagle. On Oct. 14, Mighty Eagle ascended to three meters, translated 30 feet sideways and turned 90 degrees before setting down safely. On Oct. 17, Mighty Eagle successfully flew to a height of 30 feet, translated sideways 30 feet before landing. These tests are paving the way for a Nov. 4 100-foot flight test.

Upcoming NASA "Mighty Eagle" Test Flight

NASA Robotic Lander Test Flight Nov. 4

"NASA will conduct a 100-foot robotic lander altitude test flight Friday, Nov. 4, to mature the technology needed to develop a new generation of small, smart, versatile robotic landers capable of achieving scientific and exploration goals on the surface of the moon, asteroids or other airless bodies."

23 August 2011: "During a recent test at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., the robotic lander prototype, known as Mighty Eagle, performed a hover test flying up to three feet and then translated, or moved itself sideways, to perform a controlled, safe landing 13 feet from the launch pad." More information.