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NASA Space The Almighty Buck

NASA Offering $2 Million Prize for Lunar Lander 159

coondoggie writes "If you build it, NASA will not only come, it'll give you $2 million dollars for your troubles. The space agency today said it will offer $2 million in prizes if competing teams can successfully build a lunar lander at the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge at Holloman Air Force Base, in Alamogordo, N.M. Oct. 27 and 28th. To win the prize, teams must demonstrate a rocket-propelled vehicle and payload that takes off vertically, climbs to a defined altitude, flies for a pre-determined amount of time, and then lands vertically on a target that is a fixed distance from the launch pad. After landing, the vehicle must take off again within a predetermined time, fly for a certain amount of time and then land back on its original launch pad."
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NASA Offering $2 Million Prize for Lunar Lander

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  • Economics? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mastershake_phd ( 1050150 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2007 @08:29PM (#21107541) Homepage
    The thing I always wondered about these kinds of contests, like the x prize, is doesn't it cost more to build your craft than you win?
  • by FalconZero ( 607567 ) * <FalconZero AT Gmail DOT com> on Wednesday October 24, 2007 @08:34PM (#21107599)
    Surely the mechanics of the device would be significantly different on the moon vs. on Earth?
    Surely the enormous difference in atmospheric pressure and gravity mean the only thing that's reasonably useful is the guidance mechanism?

    Any rocket scientists out there have any idea what the real benefit of the challenge is?
  • Time to boldly go... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Pausanias ( 681077 ) <pausaniasx AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday October 24, 2007 @09:26PM (#21108111)
    where we already went 40 years ago with computers that would be 0wned by a calculator today. Way to go firing up the imaginations of the next generation of space scientists, NASA.
  • by Crypto Gnome ( 651401 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2007 @09:45PM (#21108281) Homepage Journal
    For all those who're whining about issues such as
    • difference in gravity between moon and earth
    • atmosphere here, none there
    • etc
    Remember that there's recently been *much* talk about actual landings on planetary bodies other than the moon (mars, anyone) where variable factors mentioned above will still be a consideration, but "simply" (for want of a better term) different values for the same problem.

    For those who're reading slashdot while still mostly asleep/inebriated/high .... If you can do this on earth (and accomodate the inherently *non-trivial* issues from relatively large gravity and atmosphere) then tweaking the solution to work for select random() from "moon,mars,??" is a significantly less complex problem.

    If you don't know how to build a car, building a world-land-speed-record-breaking car is *very difficult*, if you regularly design and build performance cars for a living, it is a significantly less complex problem.

    How many years did it take men to build a working powered flying machine? How many years *after* that before they tweaked the design for
    • Passenger flights
    • supersonic flights
    • heavy lifting caro capacity
    • remote-controlled flight
    • etc
    Seems Nasa has realized that being an overbloated government controlled bureaucracy is not necessarily conducive to rocket-science/heavy-engineering/economically-optimal-solutions (ie stuff they are supposed to be achieving).

    Perhaps now NASA will focus more on hard-science and rely on commercial enterprise to handle issues like basic-engineering and economical solutions.

    Government science projects should not be expected/required to be economically viable/turn a profit - their research is for the generic betterment of mankind and should be available to all. Commercial interests should not be relied upon (certainly not exclusively) to carry out the brunt of core scientific research - much scientific research is *exceedingly* expensive with no obvious expectation of Return On Investment (the space program has "struck it lucky" with many useful and commercial inventions as a result, but nobody said "lets put a man on the moon because we need to invent microwave ovens").

    If only we could convince *all* world governments to use 90% of their military budget for scientific research. Wars could be prosecuted with personal combat (trial by arms) and we'd have cured cancer/aids/parkinsons/the-common-cold years ago.
  • by DoktorFaust ( 564453 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2007 @09:48PM (#21108295) Homepage
    To answer your questions -- apparently Armadillo will be the only team competing this year []. According to last year's wrap up [] they spent "...six months and about a quarter million dollars in direct pursuit of this...". Of course, more money has been spent since then, but even if they quadrupled the amount they spent, they'd still come out way ahead.

Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato