Robotic Lunar Lander Part Of NASA's Next-Gen Space Plans

This amazing shot comes from recent tests at the Marshall Space Flight centre, where the robotic lunar test bed is helping NASA develop a new generation of multi-use landers to explore the moon, Mars and asteroids.

Those big oval-shaped tanks store fuel for the test bed's thrusters, one set of which guide its altitude/landing. For the tests here on Earth, an additional thruster offsets gravity so the others function as they would on the moon.

NASA is developing a flight mission to travel to the lunar poles, but also designing the landers to set down on the moon's mid-regions. To build-out the program, Marshall partnered with John Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab, and the Von Braun centre for Science and Innovation.

Given the recent discovery of water molecules on the moon, I'm thinking they're gonna keep getting funding. Very cool. [NASA via The Huntsville Times]