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NASA Setting Up $250,000 Mars Lander Competition 44

coondoggie (973519) writes "NASA this week said it is exploring setting up one of its iconic Centennial Challenge competitions for companies to build a robotic Mars landing spacecraft. NASA said it would expect to have about $250,000 worth of prize money for a robotic spacecraft that could land on the Red Planet, retrieve a sample and return it to orbit."
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NASA Setting Up $250,000 Mars Lander Competition

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  • by Rick in China ( 2934527 ) on Friday April 11, 2014 @02:09AM (#46722703)
    That seems like a pittance for an ENORMOUS feat. That's not enough to buy an apartment in a 2nd tier city, and they expect it to encourage a company to be like "Great, 250k, lets put a lot more effort into bringing samples back from MARS."
  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Friday April 11, 2014 @07:18AM (#46723935)

    The requirements are actually pretty easy

    Really? I'm sorry but there are some hard constraints here. The return launch itself requires a reasonably well controlled vehicle with a delta-V of about 4,5 km/s or so. On Mars, that effectively means inertial guidance, and either a really hefty SRB or an engine with storable liquid propellants. All that reliably working without any pre-launch checks, after spending a year in space already and having been subjected to one landing. If that is not enough , it also mostly means making it dumb and sturdy, which means making it heavy. Making it heavy, however, makes the $250k price tag a moot point since the money you save on building it will bite you in the ass when your Earth-to-Mars launch costs suddenly jump through the roof as a result.

A list is only as strong as its weakest link. -- Don Knuth