Morpheus Demonstrates Key Capabilities

On May 28, NASA demonstrated that it can land an unmanned spacecraft on a rugged planetary surface in the pitch dark.

The free-flight test was the first of its kind for NASA’s Autonomous Landing Hazard Avoidance Technology, or ALHAT.

First night free-flight test of Morpheus lander with ALHAT technology
The first night free-flight test of NASA’s Morpheus prototype lander was conducted at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Image Credit:

Morpheus  an unmanned spacecraft capable of carrying 1,100 pounds (499 kg) of cargo  powered its way up to more than 800 feet (244 m) into the dark Florida sky at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center using solely ALHAT’s Hazard Detection System for guidance.

The Hazard Detection System, assisted by three light detection and ranging (lidar) sensors, located obstacles  such as rocks and craters  and safely landed on the lunar-like hazard field a quarter mile away from the NASA Center. Lidar which stands for Light Detection and Ranging is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth.

“The team has been striving for almost eight years to reach this point of testing the ALHAT system in a relevant space-flight-like environment on Morpheus,” said Eric Roback, ALHAT flash lidar lead engineer at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

During testing, the Hazard Detection System pointed its sensor at the hazard field and made a mosaic of flash lidar three dimensional range images encompassing the hazard field.


first night free-flight test of NASA’ Morpheus prototype lander
Morpheus powered its way up to more than 800 feet into the Florida night sky at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center using solely ALHAT’s Hazard Detection System for guidance.
Image Credit:

“The flash lidar performed very well, and we could clearly identify rocks as small as one foot (0.3 m) in size from the largest range that Morpheus could give us, which was approximately a quarter mile,” (402 m) Roback said. “With this sensor we could even find the safest landing site in a pitch black crater.”

The Hazard Detection System then had to stitch the flash lidar images together to a three dimensional map of the landing site, analyze the map and select the best landing sites. Shortly after, the Doppler lidar measured the vehicle’s altitude and velocity to land precisely on the surface. The high-altitude laser altimeter provided data enabling the vehicle to land at the chosen landing site.

“Once this technology goes into service, the days of having to land 20 or 30 miles (32 to 48 km) from where you really want to land for fear of the hazardous craters and rocks will be over,” Roback said. “Then we can land near the truly interesting science and near the critical resources that will be needed for eventual colonization, and we can do it over and over again safely.”

The ALHAT Hazard Detection System brings together expertise from three different NASA Centers. Langley created the lidar sensors. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, developed the pointing and real-time image processing technology, and NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston developed the guidance, navigation and control technology.

The Advanced Exploration Systems Division of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate manages ALHAT and Morpheus. Advanced Exploration Systems pioneers new approaches for rapidly developing prototype systems, demonstrating key capabilities and validating operational concepts for future human missions beyond Earth orbit.   I would appreciate your support by visiting the advertisers below .

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Bell’s Palsy- Strange Invader


Bell’s palsy tends to come on very suddenly. You may go to bed one night with no noticeable symptoms, only to peer in the mirror the next morning and notice that your face appears to be drooping. Some people notice pain behind their ear a day or two before they notice any weakness. Others comment that sounds seem abnormally and uncomfortably loud several days before the development of paralysis. Within a day or two, the paralysis usually reaches its peak. Most people start to recover within a couple of weeks and are completely recovered within three months. Some people who develop Bell’s palsy have a longer recovery period or have some permanent symptoms of the condition.

Many people with Bell’s palsy worry that they are having a  stroke is unlikely, because a stroke that affects the face muscles would also cause muscle weakness in other parts of the body.

The exact cause of Bell’s palsy has not been pinpointed. Most doctors assume that some process causes swelling of the facial nerve. Because the facial nerve passes through a narrow, bony area within the skull, any swelling of the nerve causes it to be compressed against the skull’s hard surface. This interferes with the nerve’s functioning.

Researchers have long believed that viral infections may be involved in the development of Bell’s palsy. Scientists have found evidence suggesting that the herpes simplex   virus (a common cause of cold sores) may be responsible for a large percentage of Bell’s palsy cases.

   Paralysis of the facial muscles where a cause is pinpointed is called a facial palsy. Known causes include viral infections such as shingles, Lyme disease, ear infections, or compression of the facial nerve by a benign tumor called an acoustic neuroma. Facial nerve damage can also be caused by progressive nerve diseases such as multiple sclerosis .

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