CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. -- While NASA celebrates the unmitigated success of the Curiosity Mars rover in its early days on the red planet, there's some cleaning up to do back on Earth.
An unmanned prototype planetary lander named Morpheus crashed and burned at the shuttle landing strip at the Kennedy Space Center Thursday.
NASA officials said the crash happened during a free-flight test at the facility, and the vehicle appears to be a total loss.
The remote-controlled robotic vehicle Morpheus vehicle lifted off the ground, but then experienced a hardware component failure, which prevented it from maintaining stable flight.
NASA officials say no one was injured and the resulting fire was extinguished by Kennedy fire personnel.
Engineers are looking into the test data, and agency officials said they will release information as it comes available.
A NASA statement noted that failures such as these were anticipated prior to the test, and are part of the development process for any complex spaceflight hardware.
They said that what they learn from the failures as much as the successes will help them learn to build the best possible system in the future.
Morpheus was a new experiment in using off-the-shelf technology to create a versatile experimental system, which would test new propellants and new spacecraft systems.
The prototype's technology, in whole or in part, could see applications with future vehicles.