To the Moon! (almost)
August 11, 2012 6:26 AM   Subscribe

NASA’s lunar lander crashes, ignites massive explosion (+video). The spider-like spacecraft called Morpheus was on a test flight at Cape Canaveral when it tilted, crashed to the ground and erupted in flames.
posted by cenoxo (58 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
If at first you don't ...

What they were trying to to was AMAZING! Or AMAZEBALLS!
However.

Bound to be a KABOOM!
posted by Mezentian at 6:33 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whoops! Well, that's why we do tests. Looking forward to the analysis of what went wrong.
posted by BeeDo at 6:35 AM on August 11, 2012


Huge Kaboom at 1:53. Guess that was the fuel going?
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:37 AM on August 11, 2012


This would be a good addition to that North Korean propaganda video.
posted by Egg Shen at 6:39 AM on August 11, 2012


This would be a good addition to that North Korean propaganda video.

Not sure the DPRK would really benefit from a discussion of relative rates of space equipment failures.
posted by jaduncan at 6:46 AM on August 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


like whacky robots explode?
posted by clavdivs at 6:47 AM on August 11, 2012


timing
posted by clavdivs at 6:48 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


At $500,000 each, it would take five thousand of these to equal one Curiosity rover mission.

Having one of these accidents a day, every day, would cost $182.5 million/year, $183 million on leap years. Obviously, that's money we wouldn't particularly want to spend, but it wouldn't be a catastrophe.

In real life, I suspect they'll do a fair bit better than blowing up a rover every day for the foreseeable future. Even if the Home Depot approach results in many lost test craft, they're so cheap in comparison to the super-custom jobs that it's still likely to save quite a bit of money. Plus: hey, cool pyrotechnics!
posted by Malor at 6:48 AM on August 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


Brilliant. Naming it after a character in TWO sequels that... (checks reviews) "tanked" "cratered" "bombed"?
posted by hal9k at 6:49 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not rocket science if stuff doesn't blow up.
posted by Artw at 6:51 AM on August 11, 2012 [14 favorites]


relative rates of space equipment failures

Did they acknowledge their crash as a failure? Really?

It would be more in character to announce it as "Our Great Leader meant to do that".
posted by Egg Shen at 6:52 AM on August 11, 2012


Vanguard all over again! The Soviets have us on the ropes!
posted by XMLicious at 6:52 AM on August 11, 2012


Whoops! Well, that's why we do tests.
Yup.
This is rocket science.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:54 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is what happens when you put San Diego in charge of a test launch.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:55 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Back to the good old days — rocket testing from The Right Stuff (1983).
posted by cenoxo at 6:58 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did they acknowledge their crash as a failure? Really?

Yes, for their most recent one they said so both internationally and on domestic TV.
posted by jaduncan at 7:01 AM on August 11, 2012


Obviously, a major malfunction.
posted by crunchland at 7:09 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The prices on those things raise interesting possibilities. Instead of donating $20 million to your alma mater for a library you could have a fleet of lunar probes named in your honor...
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:09 AM on August 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


John Carmack's Twitter yesterday:

"Whenever I see bright and confident rocket people (including NASA!), I warn them about the upcoming Inevitable Tragic Loss of Vehicle."
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:15 AM on August 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I know I've made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I've still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.
posted by Forktine at 7:15 AM on August 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


All I can say is "Good!"

Tests exist so that things can fail on terms that we'd all prefer.
posted by markkraft at 7:32 AM on August 11, 2012


Instead of donating $20 million to your alma mater for a library you could have a fleet of lunar probes named in your honor...

It's one of my life goals never to have my name mentioned in the same sentence as the word "probe."
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:33 AM on August 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Whenever I see bright and confident rocket people (including NASA!), I warn them about the upcoming Inevitable Tragic Loss of Vehicle."

Now there's the name of my new Culture ship.
posted by vers at 7:34 AM on August 11, 2012 [26 favorites]


Should've taken the blue pill.

(Not a rocket scientist, but as a crappy programmer, I'm always wary of something that passes the tests on the first try.)
posted by dirigibleman at 7:40 AM on August 11, 2012


The little sounds it makes as it first burns are the worst. :*( indeed.
posted by maryr at 8:04 AM on August 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Real Thing — Apollo 11 commander and FMOTM Neil Armstrong presents "Prototyping a Lunar Lander" [start at 2:30] at the 51st Symposium of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) on September 29, 2007.

Armstrong trained on the spidery LLRV (Lunar Landing Research Vehicle) simulator, and narrowly avoided death when the LLRV-1 crashed and burned on May 6, 1968 (Michael Collins appears in the clip). Armstrong's final approach in the Lunar Excursion Module — although edgy enough — went far better.

Such are the risks of taking humans into space and returning them safely to Earth again.
posted by cenoxo at 8:10 AM on August 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Does anybody know what the protocol for the fire crew here is? I was wondering why they didn't rush in after 30 seconds or so, since I assume they were on standby, and I'm curious if they always wait for a second explosion or something along these lines.
posted by Algebra at 8:22 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Design the lander so it's spherical and spits out gym mats. I am here to help.
posted by user92371 at 8:34 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, that looked like a pretty definitive failure. Which sometimes isn't all that bad - as a scientist, if I can't have a definitively successful experiment I'd often like to have a definitive failure instead of a "maybe it kinda worked, I think?" result. A resounding failure means you can stop working on that approach, but an ambiguous result dooms you to lengthy tweaking and repeating, and it may still fail in the end.

When you're trying a whole bunch of stuff in order to map out the most promising way forward, the motto is "Fail early, fail hard".
posted by Quietgal at 8:36 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is probably as good an opportunity as I'll get for forcing you all to seek out the fourth episode of the first season (1960) of My Three Sons, entitled "Countdown."

It's about a rocket test that (spoiler alert!) doesn't go so great, and how it affects the people who worked on it, and it's an amazing little bit of television. The message is pretty straightforward--"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again"--but it's completely loaded with Cold War politics (remember, this is just three years after Sputnik) -- and is so stylistically interesting (you'll want to keep reminding yourself that this is a sitcom made in 1960 for ABC) that, frankly, yes, you must see it. MUST!

And also because it is fucking awesome. Did I mention that? 'Cause, yeah. It is.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:51 AM on August 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


(Or, heck, it might've been "Adjust or Bust"... I don't really remember. You'll just have to watch the whole season.)
posted by Sys Rq at 8:59 AM on August 11, 2012


Instead of donating $20 million to your alma mater for a library you could have a fleet of lunar probes named in your honor...

This is why I'm proposing a 7 billion dollar kick starter to buy the rights for my name to be on the next probe to Uranus...

(the joke was sitting right there! I had to pick it up!)
posted by roboton666 at 9:10 AM on August 11, 2012


Does anybody know what the protocol for the fire crew here is? I was wondering why they didn't rush in after 30 seconds or so, since I assume they were on standby, and I'm curious if they always wait for a second explosion or something along these lines.

I imagine that they're leashed until the engineers say that it's okay to get on with it. Remember, the big kaboom's at 1:53; everything else is foreplay.
posted by Chutzler at 9:24 AM on August 11, 2012


This happens to me every time I play Lunar Lander, too.
posted by darksasami at 9:25 AM on August 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm just glad it happened here on earth with all that oxygen atmosphere. Wouldn't burn half as well on the moon
posted by Redhush at 9:41 AM on August 11, 2012


Its just a test bed, not an actual lander.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:21 AM on August 11, 2012


I'm just glad it happened here on earth with all that oxygen atmosphere. Wouldn't burn half as well on the moon

The lander has a tank of liquid oxygen, so it'd burn real pretty on the moon as well
posted by atrazine at 10:30 AM on August 11, 2012


So we can land a probe on Mars, but not on Earth?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:03 AM on August 11, 2012


So we can land a probe on Mars, but not on Earth?

Genius! Instead of landing with retrorockets, we fly down a giant sky crane and lower the astronauts to the surface just like Mars. Then the cables are cut and the skycrane shoots off for a crash landing elsewhere. Then the astronauts do their mission, and when they're ready to go... Ooops.
posted by pashdown at 11:08 AM on August 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Looks like a roll sensor failed, or an actuator tasked with moving the rocket nozzle to balance the craft got stuck.

Well, shit. Rip it apart and see what failed, then make sure it doesn't fail that way again.
posted by JB71 at 11:09 AM on August 11, 2012


Huh. I didn't realize that Morpheus was built at Armadillo Aerospace (the rocket company founded by John Carmack of Quake and DOOM fame). That lander reminded me of the vehicle in the early videos of their vertical test bed, so now it all makes sense.

One of the stated goals is to test out lean engineering requirements, so if you don't crash at least once you don't know if you're being lean enough.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:57 AM on August 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'll tell Big Jim McBob and Billy Sol Hurok.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:00 PM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The keening sound it made after it crashed was William Gibson level futurecreepy. I was relieved when it finally died and blew up.

Once again, robots for safety.
posted by djrock3k at 12:17 PM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does anybody know what the protocol for the fire crew here is?

For liquid methane in tanks, evacuate to a minimum one mile (1600m) distance, engage with high pressure water from as far away as possible, and continue to soak with water for long after the fire is extinguished to be sure everything has cooled off.

For liquid oxygen, much the same, but even stronger warnings about stand-off distance, even recommending water cannons, if available.

On the plus side, the risk for a boiling-liquid vapour explosion is not so high for either gas, and neither are toxic. As rocket fuels go, this combination is about as safe as you get. Keroscene/LOX and the various hydrating mixtures are much more dangerous.
posted by bonehead at 1:27 PM on August 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hydrazine. Damn spell check.
posted by bonehead at 1:28 PM on August 11, 2012


Design the lander so it's spherical and spits out gym mats. I am here to help.

...rockets on ALL the sides.
posted by samsara at 2:34 PM on August 11, 2012


Genius! Instead of landing with retrorockets, we fly down a giant sky crane and lower the astronauts to the surface just like Mars. Then the cables are cut and the skycrane shoots off for a crash landing elsewhere. Then the astronauts do their mission, and when they're ready to go... Ooops.

Which is why I always felt guilty knowing I had to expend all my fuel playing Lunar Lander, aware I was sending my pixelated crew on a one-way mission.
posted by sourwookie at 2:51 PM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Damn it, NASA, why are you making me want to hug robots? I noticed that sound and thought nothing of it until the little caption popped up saying that it was whimpering, and oh my heart, why do you do this to me with your space robotics, NASA?

Robots need love too. They want to be loved by you. Unless they're Cybermen. Then you run like hell.
posted by cmyk at 3:39 PM on August 11, 2012


Yeah, the firefighting protocol is pretty much "don't get anyone hurt for no reason." No people are in danger, and it's not going anywhere. The firefighters are pretty much in "prevent spreading to other areas" mode until the engineers assure them that there will be no more explosions.

Having to watch all your hardware burn after the already-disappointing "didn't work" result must be like adding insult to injury for the engineers, though.
posted by ctmf at 4:34 PM on August 11, 2012


Then the astronauts do their mission, and when they're ready to go... Ooops.

Then we found out how good they are building lunar shelters.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:24 PM on August 11, 2012


Poor lil' guy.
posted by braksandwich at 6:40 PM on August 11, 2012


This is why I'm proposing a 7 billion dollar kick starter to buy the rights for my name to be on the next probe to Uranus...

That's okay, for about $500 million I'm pretty sure I can get Uranus renamed. Middle school teachers everywhere will rejoice....
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:05 PM on August 11, 2012


A time in the history of everything that works when it didn't work. Keep trying, folks.
posted by dry white toast at 8:45 PM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's okay, for about $500 million I'm pretty sure I can get Uranus renamed. Middle school teachers everywhere will rejoice....

Good news, everyone!
posted by Sys Rq at 8:50 PM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's amazing how little this crash cost in the grand scheme of things. You could probably crash a half dozen of these and spend less than the money eaten up by a single F1 crash.
posted by Mitheral at 6:40 PM on August 12, 2012


$7 million over 2.5 years? So that's like 20 people working on it?
posted by aubilenon at 11:34 PM on August 12, 2012


Well, shit. Rip it apart and see what failed, then make sure it doesn't fail that way again.

Did you watch the video? I think the "rip it apart" phase is pretty much taken care of.
posted by The Bellman at 6:35 AM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


A little consolation perhaps....
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 4:14 AM on August 20, 2012


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