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Moon Space NASA

Lunar Lander Challenge Ends in Fire, Disappoinment 123

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the fire-go-boom-boom dept.
mikesd81 writes "The rocketeers at Armadillo Aerospace, thwarted by engine problems and other mechanical failures, left this year's X Prize Cup empty-handed after their spacecraft burst into flames on liftoff Sunday. An attempt on Sunday to hop from launch and landing pads ended with the MOD craft bursting in flames shortly after engine ignition. This is the team's second attempt at the challenge in New Mexico, they were the only entrant in last year's event, which they also lost. Brett Alexander, Executive Director of Space Prizes and the X Prize Cup relayed a comment from John Carmack, leader of the Armadillo team: "Today is officially a bad day when it comes to our vehicle." The last attempt to win the $350,000 Level 1 prize on Sunday ended when the MOD vehicle had an engine fire, with pieces coming off, including disconnected cabling. Clearly, there was a fire on the pad that burned for a while — but then went out. The Armadillo team called a safety emergency, requesting fire truck assistance, Alexander said."
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Lunar Lander Challenge Ends in Fire, Disappoinment

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  • by ZonkerWilliam (953437) * on Monday October 29, 2007 @11:33AM (#21157461) Journal
    Shows just how tough it really is. Should get bonus money just for launching.
    • by WED Fan (911325) <akahige&trashmail,net> on Monday October 29, 2007 @12:50PM (#21158315) Homepage Journal

      I've checked with the league and while there are qualifications to rate this as a bad day, the league still has to check on several rulings.

      League spokesman, Heilig Gdankazan, has cautioned members to avoid premature declarations of official calls, "We expect to be able to officially rule this as an official bad day in the near future."

      Previous bad days that took league intervention were:

      • The sinking of the Titanic
      • The burning of the Hindenburg
      • Moira Gdankazan being caught in bed with Heilig's brother, Worly
      • Richard M. Stallman's 7th year bath, last occuring on October 1st, 2002, over stressing the Municipal Waste station and causing a boil water order for most of the eastern seaboard
      • The Courtney Love-Curt Cobain wedding
      • Britney Spears showing up without panties
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ScentCone (795499)
      Shows just how tough it really is.

      Just caught a show the other day explaining how much harder the Soviets had it then they let on at the time. They had some really ugly launchpad accidents even as they were being characterized (by themselves, and the rest of the world) as being beyond that sort of thing. Other than the accidents - which aren't really surprising, especially with the 40+ engines they were trying to use on the N1! - the thing about their program that was the biggest surprise to me was their
      • by iamlucky13 (795185) on Monday October 29, 2007 @03:31PM (#21160509)
        FYI, the Soyuz flight where the three cosmonauts died on re-entry was due to a mechanical malfunction of a valve that connected the re-entry capsule to the rest of the Soyuz spacecraft. It was not an error on the crew's part. In fact, one of the crewmen actually had just enough time to unbuckle, crawl beneath the seat and close the valve halfway before passing out. Rather tragic.

        The Soviet space program is as full of accidents or more so than our own. It really is tough business:

        Yuri Gagarin's Vostok 1 capsule remained inadvertantly connected to it's service module during re-entry due to a bundle of wires (I assume a pyro failed to fire). It caused the spacecraft to wobble marginally out-of-control until the wires burned through.

        After a series of problems in-flight led to a decision to delay the Soyuz 2 launch (probably fortuitiously, since 2 would've had the same issues), the Soyuz 1 main chute didn't deploy and the backup chute tangled. The cosmonaut died when the capsule hit the ground. Interestingly, it launched under political pressure, and Gagarin had tried to get himself scheduled for the flight, believing the politburo would then listen to the engineer's concerns rather than risk losing a national hero.

        All four N-1's (the Soviet's planned moon rocket) exploded during launch (unmanned).

        A Cosmos rocket exploded on the pad in 1973, killing 9 engineers.

        In 1975, Soyuz 18a went out of control 5 minutes into launch, causing the launch escape system to activate. This saved the crew, but barely. They experienced accellerations up to 21 g's, and the capsule landed in the mountains in NW China. One article claims the capsule would've tumbled off a cliff if the chute hadn't snagged on a tree, but I haven't seen that verified.

        Soyuz 23 in 1976 crashed through a frozen lake and sank with the crew inside. Remarkably, the crew was saved after considerable effort when a diver attached a cable that allowed a helicopter to lift the capsule out.

        A 1980 explosion of an unmanned Vostok rocket on the pad killed 48 people on the ground.

        In 1983, Soyuz T-10 caught fire on the pad. Ground control triggered the launch escape system, pulling the two men and their capsule clear. The rocket exploded two seconds later, but the cosmonauts survived.

        There was a fire aboard the Mir in 1997. The same year, a Progress cargo ship collided with the station and punctured one of the modules. The crew had to rush to close the hatch to the module.

        In 2002, an unmanned Soyuz rocket exploded, killing a Russian soldier.

        One thing few people realize is there have been nearly as many close-calls in the US space program. Everyone knows about Apollo 13, but the first shuttle launch had a near burn-through due to tiles that fell off during launch. Another shuttle flight had an engine shutdown due to a short circuit that left it in a low orbit. Apollo 12 was hit by lightning. One of the Gemini flights went out of control and tumbled violently, nearly killing Neil Armstrong and David Scott. The Mercury 4 capsule had a hatch blow prematurely on splash down and sank as Gus Grissom scrambled to escape.

        All of these guys, US, Russian, and Chinese alike have a lot of guts.
        • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

          by DerekLyons (302214)

          One thing few people realize is there have been nearly as many close-calls in the US space program.

          There haven't been anywhere near as many close calls in the US program as in the Soviet. (And your listing of close calls misses at least 2.)

          Everyone knows about Apollo 13, but the first shuttle launch had a near burn-through due to tiles that fell off during launch.

          False.

          Another shuttle flight had an engine shutdown due to a short circuit that left it in a low orbit.

          Not a close call, the c

          • I'm not sure I understand the point of the criticism. I'm merely highlighting that space flight is tough business and risky business. Perhaps you misunderstood or are reading too much into my post? It's not definitive or exhaustive; Merely illustrative.

            As for your specific criticisms:

            Apollo 12 actually was one of the less dangerous ones in my list. The resulting data dropout almost prompted an in-flight abort, but some quick-thinking engineers recognized the symptoms and rebooted the computer. The vehicle w
            • I'm not sure I understand the point of the criticism. I'm merely highlighting that space flight is tough business and risky business. Perhaps you misunderstood or are reading too much into my post?

              It is very easy to misread when you make statements like "The Soviet space program is as full of accidents or more so than our own", and then proceed to present such a laundry list of Soviet accidents (missing several and elevating others into the category that do not belong). It's even easier to misread when yo

    • by Hatta (162192)
      Yeah, that's just about how I do at Lunar Lander [frontiernet.net].
  • Sad story. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JK_the_Slacker (1175625) on Monday October 29, 2007 @11:35AM (#21157487) Homepage

    I for one welcome our new flaming deathtrap overlords.

    But in all seriousness, I'm glad we found this out BEFORE trying it on the moon. I wish them better luck, and better engineering, in the next go-round.

  • by StressGuy (472374) on Monday October 29, 2007 @11:36AM (#21157491)
    It's a difficult challenge...initial failures are to be expected. Often times, breaking this kind of ground is more about tenacity than anything else.

    They'll get it eventually, and when they do (given that they are ID), I hope the headline reads "EXCELLENT!....IMPRESSIVE!"

    • It's a difficult challenge...initial failures are to be expected. Often times, breaking this kind of ground is more about tenacity than anything else.

      They'll get it eventually, and when they do (given that they are ID), I hope the headline reads "EXCELLENT!....IMPRESSIVE!"

      So until then they got to hear "HOOOOLY SHIT!"?

      (note to you non-CTF-playing weenies - it's the default sound in Quake 3 that plays when a flag carrier eats it within inches of capturing the thing).

      /P

      • by StressGuy (472374)
        I think we're all happy that it's not the Unreal Tournament folks involved here ....SQUEAL BOY....SQUEAL!!!

        "You Suck"......."Roger that"....

      • by p0tat03 (985078)
        I always thought the Q3 sound for killing someone within inches of capture is "DENIED!"... But my memory is hazy.
        • by Tim C (15259)
          No, "Denied!" is for when someone swipes a power-up you were going for iirc; the "killed within spitting distance of your flag while carrying the enemy flag" is definitely a nice, meaty "Holy Shit!". You had to be *damn* close though, I only remember hearing it a handful of times.

          Damnit, now I'm getting all nostalgic for Q3...
    • by TigerNut (718742)
      That would be much better than anything resulting in "HOLY SHIT!" Props to John and the rest of the team at Armadillo. However hard it is to do these flights at any time, doing a command performance on a particular day has got to be an order of magnitude more difficult.
    • by vertinox (846076)
      They'll get it eventually, and when they do (given that they are ID), I hope the headline reads "EXCELLENT!....IMPRESSIVE!"

      At least the current headlines didn't read "HUMILIATION!" ;)
    • by powerlord (28156)
      Exactly.

      The only team that competed last year, and the only team that came close to winning the Stage 1 this year, are led by a programmer and sponsored by nVidia, and people are complaining? :)

      "The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth. The Geek Shall Inherit the Stars"
    • by LWATCDR (28044)
      NASA did it in the first try with the Surveyor. Think about computer technology available in 1966 and the fact that no one had done it before and it was one heck of an accomplishment.
  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Monday October 29, 2007 @11:37AM (#21157507) Homepage Journal
    A fire on the launch pad is still a hell of a lot further than most of us have gone.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lpangelrob (714473)

      I agree, and give them a good amount of respect and props for getting as far as they did. This is serious science, after all.

      But it's a little like NASCAR and ice skating — you're wondering when the crashes will start. And when people will have fun with the YouTube footage. [youtube.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        except NASCAR is pointless, trivial, and intellectually vapid. I might consider NASCAR worthy of something other than scorn if the course was something other than an oval, the automobiles were technologically sophisticated (who wants to drive a Monte Carlo?), and the drivers didn't all talk like Cletus Spuckler.

        Brandine: "Dang, Cletus! Why'd you have to park so close to my parents?"
        Cletus: "Now honey, they's mah parents too!"
        • I don't watch NASCAR, but the automobiles are technologically sophisticated. They cost $125,000 to build, and because there's so much money in it, are the result of the most expensive, top-notch engineering you can find in racing.[1] [foxsports.com]

          The problem isn't the lack of engineering - nowadays it's the overengineering. NASCAR has issued millions in dollars in fines to teams that have cheated (to different extents) in order to gain performance enhancements on other teams. In some areas of racing, the equivalent of

          • by ender- (42944)

            I don't watch NASCAR, but the automobiles are technologically sophisticated. They cost $125,000 to build, and because there's so much money in it, are the result of the most expensive, top-notch engineering you can find in racing..

            That's because it costs $125,000 to fix an American car so it doesn't blow up on the first lap. :)

            Just had to take that shot.

            I can't stand watching NASCAR. The only racing I care anything for is Moto GP and AMA Superbikes. Those are some crazy mofos!

          • Re:Congrats anyway. (Score:5, Informative)

            by Zak3056 (69287) on Monday October 29, 2007 @01:43PM (#21158973) Journal

            I don't watch NASCAR, but the automobiles are technologically sophisticated. They cost $125,000 to build, and because there's so much money in it, are the result of the most expensive, top-notch engineering you can find in racing.

            While I think that the idea that the GP post was modded "insightful" is downright sad, I have to disagree with the above as well. While the race teams strive to get the cars as fast as possible, NASCAR's engineering (at the circuit level) appears to be dedicated to "making the race more competitive." That means SLOWER cars (see "restrictor plate," "aero package,") and rigid specifications on how the cars can be engineered and set-up.

            Contrast this with something like F1 where it really is all about the technology, and it's downright silly to describe NASCAR as the apex of automotive engineering.

            • While the race teams strive to get the cars as fast as possible, NASCAR's engineering (at the circuit level) appears to be dedicated to "making the race more competitive." That means SLOWER cars (see "restrictor plate," "aero package,") and rigid specifications on how the cars can be engineered and set-up.

              Contrast this with something like F1

              Please do: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formula_One_car#Recent_FIA_performance_restrictions [wikipedia.org]

              • by Zak3056 (69287)

                Point made.

                However, I think my overall point--that NASCAR is not the state of the art in auto racing--is reinforced by your link, not diminished by it. For example, the new F1 engines are less than half the displacement, but put out the same amount of power at the engines NASCAR uses.

                • by LWATCDR (28044)
                  "that NASCAR is not the state of the art in auto racing--is reinforced by your link, not diminished by it"
                  No racing series is "state of the art".
                  F1 is limited by displacement. NASCAR is limited by a restrictor plate and valve geometry. The both have weight restrictions and aerodynamic restrictions.
                  F1 and NASCAR are different domains. They each have technical limitations put on the cars to slow them down.
                  I would love to see a racing class with not technical limitations except that they cars are to be driven
                  • by TigerNut (718742)
                    That is (or used to be) part of the Indycar formula, and was also previously used in F1, in the turbo era. You got X amount of fuel based on the race distance to be covered, and it was up to you to manage how it was spent. For Indycar it was based on 4 MPG mileage (methanol has about 1/2 the energy density, by volume, of gasoline) I believe. Some races were mileage-fests and some (typically, if there were a few yellows) allowed the drivers to exercise the boost control vigorously.

                    In F1 the mileage thing wa

                    • by LWATCDR (28044)
                      Okay then make it 20 MPG and pass emissions :)
                      If you are not going to do spec racing then one of the benefits of auto racing is to improve automotive technology. Right now we need to improve emissions and fuel economy.
                    • by Rangataua (820853)
                      You could claim that in most forms of motorsport there is a benefit to being fuel efficient as you spend less time putting fuel into the car (most categories implement some sort of rules to limit the rate a which cars can be refuelled) and have to carry around a smaller quantity of fuel.
                    • by TigerNut (718742)
                      With very few exceptions, racing has always had rules, both for vehicle preparation and driver conduct. Those that say "Formula 1 ought to be completely unrestricted" don't understand what "Formula" means in the context of motorsport.

                      The rules for Peter Diamandis' vehicle X prize are interesting. I don't have a link, but the goal (for 4 occupant, 4 wheeled vehicles) is: 100 MPG, 100 MPH top speed, 10 seconds 0-60, all normally required vehicle safety and weather gear (heater, wipers, crash protection, AC

                    • by LWATCDR (28044)
                      My favorite F1 Formula was the one they used in the 1930s. The rule had a maximum weight! Those where they days of Auto Union F1 car. Of course today such a Formula would create cars with price tags and speeds that are just unbelievable.
              • by powerlord (28156)
                Exactly. Every race will have specification and restrictions of some sort.

                I for one hope we get to the point of implementing the full IGPX/IGN [wikipedia.org] ruleset sometime soon.

          • Seriously. They run carbureted V8 engines (no fuel injection, no electronic control). They have tubular steel frames. They have mechanical-linkage sequential shifting. They have your most basic independent suspension. They run stock-profile, sheet metal bodies, and it's big news when they're finally allowed to add an actual aerofoil to the back of the car instead of just a spoiler.

            It's reflected in the costs...$125,000 is incredibly cheap for a race car. Good thing too since they can expect to wreck several
        • The Monte Carlo you see on the track has as much in common with the Monte Carlos you see on the road as a Cessna has with a kite. The name is there for marketing and branding, really.
        • You're ignoring all the subtle strategy. [theonion.com]
  • Again? (Score:2, Funny)

    by sm62704 (957197)
    Again?? [slashdot.org] Damn.

    OTOH, at least George Broussard isn't on the team, or we'd have "The rocketeers at Armadillo Aerospace 4ever"

    It seems Armadillo is DOOMed. OW! OW! STOP HITTING ME!!

    -mcgrew
  • Overly negative (Score:5, Informative)

    by peacefinder (469349) <alan...dewitt@@@gmail...com> on Monday October 29, 2007 @11:47AM (#21157611) Journal
    That writeup is a bit misleading. It's not like they just showed up and their vehicle burst into flames. In a previous attempt this weekend they completed a 90+ second flight, then about 88 seconds of the second, potentially prizewinning flight before engine trouble brought them down.

    It wasn't enough to win the prize, but they still had some impressive flights.
    • Yeah thats the difficult part when it comes to complex machines: figuring out the durability of the solution. Its difficult enough to get something like this to work once, its quite another to do it repeatedly. In many ways you learn more form failures like this than you do your successes. You learn where the weakest link is, figure out a way to strengthen it or predict its failure and replace it before it fails. Its a shame each one is so expensive, not like 3d coding where you just have a badly rendered o
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by peacefinder (469349)
        They've actually had several flights on that vehicle. Aside from ignition problems, they seem to have an engine design that can reliably run for several minutes at very decent thrust, and they obviously have a solid handle on flight stability. But yeah, the contest conditions exposed some troubles for them.

        I'm not quite sure of my sources on this, but they seem to have had fuel (oxidizer? igniter?) contamination issues, leading to a flaky igniter, leading on the second flight to a hard start that caused eng
        • by AJWM (19027)
          Yeah, getting rocket ignition right is hard. (Even with those little Estes rockets ;-)

          You've got to get the fuel/oxidizer mix lit -- controllably -- before too much of either builds up in the combustion chamber (which can result in an explosion when it does light), but your ignition system is so much dead weight the rest of the time.

          That's one reason the Apollo spacecraft went with a hypergolic propellant combination -- just open the valves and the two components ignite as soon as they come in contact with
      • not like 3d coding where you just have a badly rendered object or at worst a crash.

        Oh, man, obviously you've never coded a software renderer on an OS that doesn't have memory protection. *shudder*

        -:sigma.SB

        • Actually.... I have. I left that out cause I thought it dated me too much and it would scare the children. I haven't done any modern work in the field, but I would assume that most would have that at this point. I have gpf nightmares every now and then.
          • I have gpf nightmares every now and then.

            GPF? On a system without memory protection?

            On a system without memory protection, you'd not get a general protection(!) fault, you'd e.g. get the timer interrupt redirected at some random location.
    • Re:Overly negative (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Reality Master 101 (179095) <RealityMaster101@noSPAm.gmail.com> on Monday October 29, 2007 @12:19PM (#21157963) Homepage Journal

      then about 88 seconds of the second, potentially prizewinning flight before engine trouble brought them down

      I think it was 83 seconds (7 seconds short!), but it's also worth noting that they did the return flight with a fist-sized hole in the graphite engine. John decided to try the return flight by flying it over really fast, then hovering above the ground a few meters so if the engine finally quit, it would only fall a short distance. Flying with that much damage is amazing enough, but I also find it interesting how easily the rocket is programmed to do whatever Carmack wants, with such control.

      • by KefabiMe (730997)
        Awesome! I just see this image of Carmack sitting out in the middle of the desert, steering tons real life explosives costing who-know-show-much money, using a first person view GUI... which happens to be a Quake 3 Mod.
        • I just see this image of Carmack sitting out in the middle of the desert, steering tons real life explosives costing who-know-show-much money, using a first person view GUI... which happens to be a Quake 3 Mod.

          Actually, that's not far from the truth... he sits in a van with a laptop, and does steer the vehicle using a remote camera view when it gets close to the landing pad (prior to that, it's on automatic control). He doesn't even look at the real thing, he depends on other people to watch it. :)

    • Re:Overly negative (Score:4, Informative)

      by brian.stinar (1104135) on Monday October 29, 2007 @12:50PM (#21158313) Homepage
      Hey,

      I went to Alamogordo to watch the competition. As a graduate student in Albuquerque, the 3.5 hour drive was worth it. As the previous poster commented, the Saturday flight was ALMOST successful. The first transition from pad to pad did not have any problems at all. The hovering lander was a very interesting sight to see above the desert. Due to safety issues, the viewing area was too far away to get a good look when the lander was close to the ground. However, a large video screen broadcast the images.

      When I was standing there, watching, it was unclear what actually caused them to fail to meet the objectives. I thought the lander actually made the time limit on the return trip but did not land successfully. I thought it tipped over, or something broke off when it came down. However, I was unable to clearly see and my experience was based on a what people were saying over a loud speaker and the images of lander in a dusty cloud on a giant screen. It is interesting to read that they actually did not meet the time limit. I wasn't able to see the Sunday launch.

      Overall, I will probably continue to support the competitions. Many people in New Mexico are excited about developing a consumer space industry, myself included. The air show had about the same excitement pattern as a baseball game, very exciting for a small portion of the time and a lot of waiting. I hope that the guys at Armadillo Aerospace know that everyone is rooting for them.

      When I get ready to graduate, I will bring a STACK of resumes to the XPrize contests, there were a lot of really cool companies with booths set up.

            -Brian-
  • "O delicate walker, babbler, dialectician Fire,
    O enemy and image of ourselves,"

    - Louis MacNeice
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Obviously these guys aren't engineers, either!

    Said in jest since Slashdot seemed so ready to poo-poo the X-Wing builders, but are soooo sympathetic for these guys.

    That said...

    Yeah, this stuff is hard to pull off. It's not called rocket science for nothing!

  • by UncHellMatt (790153) on Monday October 29, 2007 @11:49AM (#21157651)
    Afterward, Brett Alexander was heard to lament "Perhaps using those parts from my mom's old Pinto wasn't the best idea..."
  • "robust"? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SuperBanana (662181) on Monday October 29, 2007 @11:51AM (#21157663)

    Pete Worden, a Lunar Lander Challenge judge - and director of NASA's Ames Research Center, told SPACE.com that the engine blew up, with the rocket's engine chamber tossing out pieces onto the pad. "It's over for them for this X Prize Cup," Worden said. But he added: "I do think they are getting there...it's a robust design.

    That's one exciting definition of robust :-)

    • by Panaflex (13191)
      Well, to be fair - they team didn't have the engine they wanted and the parts were sub-quality. They went ahead with the challenge knowing this. Their previous attempts have shown very impressive engineering - but had software glitches in the abort system. Testing that system is incredibly difficult - as you only get to test it when something goes really bad.
    • by Dmala (752610)
      Well, it was robust, now it's robusted.

      Bada-bing, I'll be here all week, tip your waitresses, etc. etc.
    • Why don't they just make a solid engine burning APC? I will never understand the fascination with complicated liquid fuel systems.
      • Why don't they just make a solid engine burning APC? I will never understand the fascination with complicated liquid fuel systems.

        I am not a rocket engineer, but I believe the answer to that is restart capability. Solid boosters go off once. If you're trying to start and stop the craft, it's a problem.

        • I don't see much starting and stopping going on to get to the moon. Granted you will need some throttling capability but on a much smaller scale.
          • by Todd Knarr (15451)

            Solid engines can't throttle. They've got two settings: off, and full power. And once they're lit, they're at full power basically until they run out of fuel to burn. There's a few things you can do to throttle them, but all of them are really hairy and complex. Basically, solid rockets are good for getting you up, not so good for getting you back down in a controlled manner.

      • While at first I hesitated to reply to "P3NIS_CLEAVER", there are a few reasons why:

        1. the competition is to launch up, pitch over and translate, and land on another pad. Refuel and repeat. Good luck getting a solid engine to throttle nicely. Yes, the Army does it with pintle engines. But it is a far cry from uncomplicated.
        2. Mechanics of a solid: thrust is (for a zeroth order analysis) proportional to the surface area burning. While you can make a flat burning solid (by having a cylinder with a moon or
  • Frankenstein, on hand to witness the event, was heard to comment "Fire...burn!"
    • Doctor Frankenstein said that!? Or his nameless monster?

      The good doctor seemed somewhat more erudite than his murderous creation.
    • by Dannon (142147)
      Tonto and Tarzan were unavailable for comment.
  • Points to make (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Reality Master 101 (179095) <RealityMaster101@noSPAm.gmail.com> on Monday October 29, 2007 @12:14PM (#21157919) Homepage Journal

    Inevitably, some "real" engineers will comment on this story and make snide armchair hindsight comments, with the overall point that it really does take a billion dollars to do rocketry.

    Some points:

    1) These are R&D vehicles. They are not production vehicles. Don't judge what production reliability will be like based on R&D.

    2) They may not have made it over the finish line, but they are the only ones who entered the race among ten or so teams. Many of the teams said they were "close" last year, yet still couldn't make it work a year later.

    The real measure of how successful Armadillo is going is the how easy they're making it look in their videos. But it's not easy, and the fact that they're the only one that's flying hoverable rockets on a weekly basis proves it.

    One of the things that bugs me the most is when Aerospace engineers tear down what they're doing, implying they could do it better, if they only had Armadillo's money. Lots of people have money, but lots of people are also not making Armadillo's progress -- with volunteers, working two days a week.

    Give Carmack the credit for being the genius that he is.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Give Carmack the credit for being the genius that he is.


      uhh this is /., everyone here gives Carmack his due props. and im not saying anything bad about the guy but as ive been saying for the past few months, i think he was overly zealous in regards to implementing quad damage as such a early stage in development.
    • I agree. Just imagine the steps it would have taken to get from Goddard's rocket experiments to the Titan/Atlas if we didn't take advantage of a sudden influx of German rocket scientists and technology after WWII.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wiredlogic (135348)
      Their problem is that they are (mostly) a bunch of software guys that think they can cobble some hardware together and make it work with a complete lack of engineering rigor. You can't deny their persistence and the amount of success they have earned over the years. If you take a look through their weblog, though, you will see tons of shoddy workmanship, even on elementary, low-tech stuff like wiring. They've got the engines themselves to a reasonably advanced stage of development but everything else is cra
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AJWM (19027)
      2) They may not have made it over the finish line, but they are the only ones who entered the race among ten or so teams. Many of the teams said they were "close" last year, yet still couldn't make it work a year later.

      There's a local (Colorado) team that has a vehicle and they felt it ready to enter, but (per the newspaper report) couldn't get the requisite FAA flight approval. (Sorry, don't recall whether it was Paragon or Micro-Space).

      I would have thought that some kind of contest like this would have a
      • Well, as I understand it each of the vehicles would have needed an FAA waiver to do free flights over a certain altitude or duration anywhere in the US. (I don't recall the limits, but I think it's in the Armadillo news archive somewhere.) So if they didn't have an FAA waiver, that (presumably) means they had never done a free flight of anything close to LLC1 parameters.

        That makes it seem pretty unlikely (to me) that they stood a realistic chance of a prizewinning day at the XPC, or that the paperwork was t
  • by jeti (105266) on Monday October 29, 2007 @12:27PM (#21158059) Homepage
    There is an excellent article on how the LLC rules were designed:
    http://www.xprize.org/blogs/wpomerantz/ng-llc-rules-explained [xprize.org]
  • It's harder than NASA makes it look.
  • by Jim Morash (20750) on Monday October 29, 2007 @02:15PM (#21159419)
    "Once again, it proves that rocket science is hard."

    Gaaah! Rocket science is not hard, you can pretty much sum it up with Newton's Laws.

    Rocket engineering is hard. But engineers get no respect.
  • Here's a link to footage of launch. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogYrvEEM0Ts [youtube.com]
  • ... he still have bugs in the missile code!
  • is that last year, everybody was commenting that there would be multiple players and that SOMEBODY WOULD win this year. It is possible that next year, there will be less than 4 entries on this and again nobody will win. I am guessing that it will be 2. And next year, Armadillo will be the team to beat. Do note that I am not saying Carmack. It is possible that he is no longer willing to keep plugging the money, but will bring onboard another investor (somebody like allen who is a visionary).

    BTW, one thing t
  • ...they had installed the Pentagram of Protection.
  • ALTITUDE 0
    SPEED OF DESCENT 100
    FUEL REMAINING 0
    NEW RATE: 0

    YOU LEFT A 2 MILE CRATER. PLAY AGAIN?
  • This isn't a Computer Environment, Graphics/Game world engine to develop and make hundreds of millions without a degree. This requires a serious background in Thermodynamics, Aerodynamics and much more. If Carmack wants to do it right he'd go get the degree in Mechanical Engineering and perhaps a Master's in Advanced Theoretical Aerodynamics. He might want to get a minor in Chemical Engineering. Those fuel systems can be quite volatile.

    I'm not a millionaire and I don't play one in the virtual worlds. I d

    • I take it that you follow Armadillo Aerospace closely. Enough to criticize the credentials of those involved.

      Or more to the point, you don't think a company whose product requires skilled M.E.s for their primary product, like lets say General Motors or Ford, could be operated by somebody other than a mechanical engineer?

      Now I'm not suggesting here that if Carmack went and did as you said, and went "back to school" to get some additional insight in the fields you are talking about, that it wouldn't be helpf
  • ...this isn't that dificult, this isn't like rocket science! ...Oh!
    Wait!
    It is!
    Damn you von Braun!

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