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Moon NASA Science

2 Companies Win NASA's Moon-Landing Prize Money 110

Posted by timothy
from the what-happened-to-$150k? dept.
coondoggie writes "NASA said it will this week award $1.65 million in prize money to a pair of aerospace companies that successfully simulated landing a spacecraft on the moon and lifting off again. NASA's Centennial Challenges program, which was managed by the X Prize Foundation, will give a $1 million first prize to Masten Space Systems and a $500,000 second prize to Armadillo Aerospace for successfully completing the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge."
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2 Companies Win NASA's Moon-Landing Prize Money

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  • Re:humm (Score:4, Informative)

    by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday November 03, 2009 @12:12PM (#29964436) Journal
    It's almost as easy to click the link and RTFA as it is to complain about the summary...

    The extra $150,000 was awarded to one of the companies for their completion of an earlier phase.
  • by malakai (136531) on Tuesday November 03, 2009 @12:38PM (#29964830) Journal

    The team that ended up 'beating' Armadillo's accuracy was given an extra day of flights. This didn't make John Carmack or many others very happy. At the same time, people are more upset with what appears to be arbitrary judging than competition. I think any of the three final teams would have removed a part from their engine and loaned it to another team. In fact, during previous attempts this happened with RR and AA.

    I don't think anyone is going to be surprised that I am unhappy about
    Masten getting a fourth shot at the level 2 prize. I understand that
    there is a desire to award all the prize money this year and be able
    to close the books on the LLC, but I don't think it is fair. If you
    can just call an abort each day, you can keep anyone else from
    flying. Three swings, three misses, time's up.

    John Carmack

    For the past couple weeks, as it became clear that Masten had a real
    shot at completing the level 2 Lunar Lander Challenge and bettering our
    landing accuracy, I have been kicking myself for not taking the
    competition more seriously and working on a better landing accuracy. If
    they pulled it off, I was prepared to congratulate them and give a bit
    of a sheepish mea culpa. Nobody to be upset at except myself. We could
    have probably made a second flight in the drizzle on our scheduled days,
    and once we had the roll thruster issue sorted out, our landing accuracy
    would have been in the 20cm range. I never thought it was worth
    investing in differential RTK GPS systems, because it has no bearing on
    our commercial operations.

    The current situation, where Masten was allowed a third active day of
    competition, after trying and failing on both scheduled days, is
    different. I don't hold anything against Masten for using an additional
    time window that has been offered, since we wouldn't have passed it up
    if we were in their situation, but I do think this was a mistake on the
    judges part.

    I recognize that it is in the best interests of both the NASA Centennial
    Challenges department and the X-Prize Foundation to award all the prize
    money this year, and that will likely have indirect benefits for us all
    in coming years. It is probably also beneficial to the nascent New
    Space industry to get more money to Masten than Armadillo, since we have
    other resources to draw upon. Permit me to be petty enough to be upset
    and bitter about a half million dollars being taken from me and given to
    my competitor.

    The rules have given the judges the discretion to do just about anything
    up to and including awarding prize money for best effort if they felt it
    necessary, so there may not be any grounds to challenge this, but I do
    feel that we have been robbed. I was going to argue that if Masten was
    allowed to take a window on an unscheduled day with no notice, the
    judges should come back to Texas on Sunday and let us take our unused
    second window to try for a better accuracy, but our FAA waiver for the
    LLC vehicle was only valid for the weekend of our scheduled attempt.

    John Carmack

  • Re:its NASA!!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday November 03, 2009 @12:48PM (#29964952) Homepage

    if we have learned anything in the past, just because it works in a simulation doesn't mean it will work in reality, more or less in Zero G.

    FYI, this wasn't a simulation in the sense of a computer simulation, but rather in the sense that they were not actually required to perform this test on the moon. As far as I can tell from TFA, the only thing "simulated" was the Level 2 landing site which instead of a flat landing pad was a rocky surface designed to "simulate" the surface of the moon.

    So, these were real rockets that were really taking off, traveling horizontally, and landing vertically. Yes gravity would be lower on the moon (not zero) and that could certainly introduce some kinds but I think this is still a worthwhile demonstration of working technology.

  • by njvack (646524) <njvack@wisc.edu> on Tuesday November 03, 2009 @01:38PM (#29965652)

    I think any of the three final teams would have removed a part from their engine and loaned it to another team.

    And indeed, after Masten's third attempt, their rocket was damaged badly enough by a fire that they really thought they wouldn't be able to fly the next day, regardless of the judges' decision. It was the help of volunteers from other competing teams that got them off the ground the next day. In addition to fixing the problem that caused the fire, they essentially needed to replace all the wiring on the rocket.

    And the next day, a bunch of Masten's team members drove up to FAR and helped Unreasonable Rocket to troubleshoot their rockets -- even though success by Unreasonable could only cost them prize money.

    The members of these teams are not only ridiculously talented, they're also ridiculously open and supportive of each other. It's a bit humbling to watch.

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