NASA is slowly eliminating the need for human pilots, and the results are increasingly awesome.
The Robotic Lander Development Project at Nasa's Marshall Space Flight Centre in Alabama has run a successful test of a hover lander that defies gravity without the traditional assistance of an on-board human pilot.
NASA describes the test thus:
The robotic lander successfully flew up to 7 feet for 27 seconds, proving it can execute commands autonomously, such as hover for an extended period, control its position and orientation and land successfully. More free flight tests are planned that could potentially take the lander up to 100 feet and last up to 60 seconds.
Autonomous hover landers could one day prove useful in low-gravity environments. According to Wired, a craft like this could eliminate the need for aero-braking or parachutes when landing on the moon or asteroids.
You can see the whole test in the video (below), which gets quite breathtaking when the picture switches to infrared (around 0:53).
WATCH: [via PopSci]