WASHINGTON – Earlier this week, NASA safely landed a robotic rover on Mars about 150 million miles away. But on Thursday here on Earth, a test model planetary lander crashed and burned at Kennedy Space Center in Florida just seconds after liftoff.

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. It got only a few feet up in the air, NASA said.

NASA spokeswoman Lisa Malone said it appears that the methane-and-liquid oxygen powered lander is a total loss. Nobody was hurt in the unmanned experiment, she said.

NASA suspects a mechanical device that is part of its GPS navigation system, spokeswoman Brandi Dean said.

Morpheus is a prototype for a cheap, environmentally friendly planetary lander. Thursday was the first time it had been tested untethered in a free flight.