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Moon Space NASA

Lunar Lander Challenge Ends in Fire, Disappoinment 123

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 XenoPhage ( 242134 ) on Monday October 29, 2007 @11:35AM (#21157489) Homepage
    I think these guys deserve all the credit they get. John and company spend a lot of time refining their approach and are kind enough to share that data with the rest of the rocketry community. They're helping push commercial rocketry into the mainstream and I wish them all the best. Can't wait to see how they do next year!
  • Re:Congrats anyway. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lpangelrob ( 714473 ) on Monday October 29, 2007 @11:41AM (#21157551)

    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. []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 29, 2007 @11:48AM (#21157641)
    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!

  • Points to make (Score:5, Interesting)

    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.

  • 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 ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Monday October 29, 2007 @01:08PM (#21158493)
    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 first manned flight. I had no idea that the way they got Yuri Gagarin back down from his first trip was to eject him from the spacecraft at 20,000 feet for a solo parachute ride down. His vehicle took its OWN ride down, but they didn't trust their ability to keep him alive all the way back down while in the vehicle. But they covered the event in terms of him "landing" the craft so that they could lay claim to a new record for manned flight that included consideration of whether or not the "pilot" survived and stayed with the craft all the way back to the ground. I had also forgotten about their three cosmonauts that died on re-entry when they opened their cabin's ventilation up to the atmosphere many thousands of feet too high (cabin air went out instead of fresh air coming in). Interesting show.
  • Re:Points to make (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AJWM ( 19027 ) on Monday October 29, 2007 @04:15PM (#21161119) Homepage
    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 blanket FAA waiver to cover the sight for the time involved. Apparently each vehicle also needs some kind of FAA documentation. Anyone know the details? Were any of the other teams that didn't enter in the same boat?

The best defense against logic is ignorance.