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Armadillo Aerospace's "Pixel" launch vehicle also competed in last year's competition. (Source: Armadillo Aerospace)

BonNova, founded by the team that won the Ansari X PRIZE, is currently in the design phase for its entry. (Source: BonNova)
Event organizers announced eight of nine teams competing in the NG-LLC event

The X PRIZE Foundation announced eight of nine competitors who will compete in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge (NG-LLC), an event to take place during the Wirefly X Prize Cup.  Originally planned to be four teams, the nine teams will compete for a $2 million prize purse.

The Wirefly X PRIZE Cup features teams of private rocketeers trying to promote technology to help the advancement of space travel.

"We are excited by the number of teams competing this year and their overall level of sophistication," said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation.

Eight of the known teams participating:
  • Acuity Technologies, Menlo Park, CA:  Led by Robert Clark, who founded the company in 1992, the team is best known for their designs of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for the Department of Defense.
  • Armadillo Aerospace, Mesquite, TX:  Led by id Software's John Carmack, Armadillo Aerospace is the only team to fly a vehicle in last year's challenge.
  • BonNova, Tarzana, CA: Led by Allen Newcomb, a winner of the Ansari X PRIZE, the team was founded specifically to win this contest.
  • Masten Space Systems, Mojave, CA:  Led by David Masten, the company is now working on launching tethered flights.
  • Micro-Space, Denver, CO:  Along with Armadillo Aerospace, Micro-Space is the other company who also participated in the Ansari X PRIZE contest.  Micro-Space technology has been successful in the flight of high-powered rockets.
  • Paragon Labs, Denver, CO:  Team Paragon Labs is led by Kevin Sagis, the founder of Paragon, and features 16 industry experts.
  • SpeedUp, Laramie and Chugwater, WY:  The team is led by Robert Steinke, a former worker at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab -- SppedUp has long-term goals to offer low altitude rocket rides to the public.
  • Unreasonable Rocket, Solana Beach, CA: Father-son team of Paul T. Breed and Paul A. Breed want to show the world that a small, family team is able to compete with the teams in the private sector.  The team's vehicles are being built in a garage for under $200K.
The ninth team competing in the contest asked to remain confidential, with Internet rumors speculating that founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin could be a possiblity.  The identity of the ninth team will be revealed 60 days before the start of the contest.

Event organizers expect to fully award the $2 million purse "in what will prove to be an exhilarating showdown between a number of very qualified teams," Diamandis added.

The event will take place October 27-28 at Holloman Air Force Base, located in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

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Ansari X Prize
By masher2 on 6/27/2007 11:53:57 AM , Rating: 1
I think history will demonstrate that the small (by comparison) amount of money donated by the Ansari family to fund X Prizes will wind up doing far more for humanity in the long run than all of tens of billions donated by Bill Gates.

RE: Ansari X Prize
By KristopherKubicki on 6/27/2007 11:57:00 AM , Rating: 2
I think Ansari only sponsored the first competition. Wirefly picked up the next two.

RE: Ansari X Prize
By omnicronx on 6/27/2007 11:59:49 AM , Rating: 2
im glad to hear you think lunar exploration is more important than curing aids and other diseases. I am not saying space exploration isnt a good priority for 'humanity', but saying its better for humanity is just plain stupid

RE: Ansari X Prize
By KristopherKubicki on 6/27/2007 12:03:15 PM , Rating: 2
I think what he meant to say was that we'll probably remember Ansari for putting the first private individuals in space before we remember B&MG for combating AIDS in Africa -- especially considering the cost differential.

RE: Ansari X Prize
By masher2 on 6/27/2007 12:05:49 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, and not only remember it, but realize it was far more valuable to us.

Had Gates decided to fund space research instead, we'd probably be seeing the first factories built in orbit by now.

RE: Ansari X Prize
By KristopherKubicki on 6/27/2007 12:28:03 PM , Rating: 3
Well, I might have to disagree with you on this a little bit.

While I don't contest that some of the B&MGF activities seem ... futile and fruitless at best, other projects they've done really do have large effects on the world.

The Gates Millenium Scholars and Gates Cambridge Scholars are good programs in my opinion -- I wouldn't be surprised if the next guy *designing* those orbital stations comes out of one of those programs.

What I will say is this: As an charitable organization, the B&MGF must donate 5% of its assets per year, every year, to keep charity status. Historically it has done this, but the foundation has also ballooned from a $2 billion dollar endowment to $33 billion in 7 years. The foundation acts like a hedge fund with a charity tax exemption. Maybe its corporate efficiency at its best, but then again maybe not.

RE: Ansari X Prize
By masher2 on 6/27/2007 12:47:30 PM , Rating: 3
I'm not denigrating B&MGF. Nearly all its activities have enormous impact. But nearly all of them are short-term impacts only. They just don't compare to the long-term social, economic, and environmental benefits of seeding spaceflight research.

RE: Ansari X Prize
By dever on 6/27/2007 1:06:14 PM , Rating: 3
I think it would be better to say that B&MGF's impact is less quantifiable. The x-prize effects are flashy and entertaining and their direct effects are easy to see and quantify.

RE: Ansari X Prize
By masher2 on 6/27/2007 1:14:14 PM , Rating: 2
No, their effects are easily quantifiable. Save the life of one person, though...and you have one more person in the world. Build a bridge to space, and you improve and enrich the lives all our descendents from now to the end of time.

The B&MGF does an incredible amount of humane work. But most (not all) of those effects will persist only a generation or two.

RE: Ansari X Prize
By Quiksel on 6/27/2007 1:51:27 PM , Rating: 3
masher, while i know you're a big space buff and all, there is hardly a good line to draw to compare the work of the Gates Foundation and the Ansari X Prize, especially as to whether one is more beneficial to the human race.

As we have seen with all the research going into a "cure" for HIV/AIDS, big science is getting a chance to demonstrate whether it is up to the task. Gates Foundation is one of them, CHAVI is another. Since HIV keeps changing, thanks to a lack of education on the virus, this "cure" needs more involved to adequately (yet still not enough to cover all the bases) encompass this beast. More simply put, in ORDER to fight HIV/AIDS, organizations like the Gates Foundation and CHAVI are needed, not just exist to be the poster-childs of AIDS Research.

Space research is so god-awfully different than this endeavor, I can't even believe you thought it rational to put a comparison on the two, much less to conclude that the outcome of such research trumps the importance of the "cure" to HIV/AIDS.

RE: Ansari X Prize
By Eris23007 on 6/27/2007 2:22:50 PM , Rating: 4
Apparently you haven't considered the economics. Every dollar spent one one thing is a dollar that isn't spent on any host of another group. Masher2's argument appears to be that B&MGF's choices to prioritize spending money on HIV/AIDS research instead of on spaceflight research is a poor selection based on the tradeoffs. A line that compares the work of the B&MGF with the work of the X-Prize foundation is absolutely a resonable comparison: both are charitable foundations that fund large amounts of scientific research. That said, they have VASTLY different approaches in how they incentivize the research process, as well as obviously different subject matter.

Frankly, I would argue that a myopic focus on the topic of the research, in this case spaceflight vs. HIV/AIDS research, misses the real crux of the issue - the success of what I'll refer to as "Venture Philanthropy" a la the X-Prize, vs. the conventional way of privately funding scientific advancement (B&MGF), vs. the big-government bureaucracy approach to scientific research (NASA, NIH, etc.).

The really special thing about the X-Prize approach is that they've figured out how to leverage the best aspects of capitalism and the market to stimulate long-term basic scientific research, through their approach of seeding prizes for discrete events. The event prizes are clearly linked, but in different areas of technology, with a directly discernable overreaching goal.

Why has this "venture Philanthropy" approach not been tried in other areas? Why not seed prize money for discrete research topics in the biosciences as well? Clearly the government-funded approach to research is fundamentally incompatible with such a private approach, but why should a private foundation such as the B&MGF be wedded to the same old way of doing things?

As for the subject matter issue, I happen to personally believe that a good mix of short-term and long-term charitable giving is essential. When one becomes overly short-term focused, one tends to stop seeing the big picture and forgets to drive the overall innovation forward. On the other hand, an overly long-term focused research approach frequently misses the relevance of the research and can go years without any progress before anyone realizes that other aspects of technology, society, whatever, have passed the original goals by, to the point where they are no longer relevant. I do think that B&MGF should divert some of their research dollars to more long-term focused areas than HIV/AIDS. It is, however, worth noting that they spend a great deal of money on Malaria research as well, which kills far more people in the developing world(especially children) than HIV/AIDS.

Personally I believe both long-term goals such as spaceflight and short-term, more humanistic goals such as epidemiology are relevant, important subjects for research dollars. The point of the private market system is that those who provide the money get to apply their own value systems to what gets funded, and while we may criticize their choices, I celebrate their freedom, in both cases, to support the causes about which they are most passionate!

RE: Ansari X Prize
By therealnickdanger on 6/27/2007 3:11:18 PM , Rating: 3
Very well said!

Now on to my own, less intelligent ramblings:
Car crashes kill more people than AIDS. Both are preventable. Why don't we spend more on car and roadway safety improvements and driver education than on AIDS?

Besides, by the time we cure it - if we cure it - we'll just have to deal with SuperAIDS anyway (</sarcasm>)). If history is any indicator, there's always a pandemic to combat... and if I had to pick one to fight, I'd choose cancer over AIDS any day. AIDS isn't some mystical disease that just randomly attacks people, there are only a few ways to contract it and many people have it due to poor personal decisions. Money is being spent, progress is being made, but it certainly doesn't feel rewarding.

I'm no where near Mr. Asher's level of nerdiness when it comes to space exploration, but I have no doubt that it is the most important human endeavor we could ever throw money at. I'd really love to see much larger budgets go toward this.

RE: Ansari X Prize
By TomZ on 6/27/2007 3:50:44 PM , Rating: 3
AIDS isn't some mystical disease that just randomly attacks people, there are only a few ways to contract it and many people have it due to poor personal decisions.

That's true mainly of developed nations where education is widespread, but it is not true globally. Not everyone is educated about the risks of HIV and how it is spread, e.g., in areas of Africa where HIV runs rampant, and certainly children living with HIV are suffering having not made a "poor personal decision."

- At the end of 2006, there were 2.3 million children living with HIV around the world.
- Over half a million children became newly infected with HIV in 2006.
- Of the 2.9 million people who died of AIDS during 2006, over one in ten were children. Every hour, forty children die as a result of AIDS.

Sorry, I know this is a tech site, not a political site, but I just feel strongly that HIV is not always the victim's choice.

RE: Ansari X Prize
By therealnickdanger on 6/28/2007 9:02:25 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed, it isn't always the victim's choice - which is why I didn't use the word "always". I also did not say that it was a poor decision "by the victim". A man with AIDS who chooses to abduct and rape people - that's a poor decision on behalf of the rapist. Someone with AIDS who chooses to continue his promiscuous lifestyle - poor decision making. Sharing or not properly cleaning needles - poor decision making. And when I say "poor", I really mean "completely sh*tty".

A lack of education is the number one cause of poor decision making and the saddest part is all the kids who are affected because of ignorant or outright stupid adults around them. However, education can only take you so far.

Look at a country like ours (USA) or other ultimately developed nations - new AIDS cases are still on the rise, even with all the "education" blanketing schools, radio, TV, and Internet. 4-year olds in this country know what AIDS is. Yet it's still rising. The simple fact is that many people choose not to care about the consequences of their actions and would rather bust a nut than let the disease die with them. Sounds really harsh, I know, but that's the cold truth of it.

Hopefully a cure is found before their demise, but it would be nice to see better self control... But for some reason, asking someone to "keep it in their pants" is considered an "invasion of privacy" or "oppressive" or some other such nonsense. We lie to ourselves thinking we SHOULD have our cake and eat it too. Society as a whole is penalized because it must not only find a way to prevent and cure but also perpetuate, if not promote, by nature of inaction, the promiscuous lifestyle.

One can only wonder about the explosion of new HIV cases there will be AFTER we find a cure. Disturbing.

RE: Ansari X Prize
By thatguy39 on 6/28/2007 6:39:32 PM , Rating: 2
Car crashes do not kill more people than AIDS, how silly.

RE: Ansari X Prize
By masher2 on 6/27/2007 3:48:47 PM , Rating: 2
> "More simply put, in ORDER to fight HIV/AIDS, organizations like the Gates Foundation and CHAVI are needed, not just exist to be the poster-childs of AIDS Research."

Whoa, whoa! I didn't say anything about AIDS research. That is incredibly valuable, not just for curing AIDS itself (which is a tiny part of the puzzle) but for long-term research spinoffs in other biotech areas.

But AIDS research is just a tiny fraction of the funding of the B&MGF. The bulk of their funds are spend on helping world hunger, financial services for third-world poor, funding clinics and innoculation programs, etc, etc. All worthy programs. But they don't even begin to compare from the benefits humanity will see from research into applied spaceflight or AIDS research.

RE: Ansari X Prize
By Pirks on 6/27/2007 3:12:40 PM , Rating: 1
I totally agree with masher, but maybe Bill & Melinda should have funneled their funds into two major areas - funding safe nuclear energy projects plus fighting enviro freaks and zealots by smart and effective PR (say, Jobs style or whatever necessary to squash enviro parasites and throw them off the USA economy's neck so to say) and also the space flight.

I mean, both of these areas are hugely important for the future of the human race, much more than fighting AIDS (people will die from other new diseases anyway so no point wasting money here, really) and they are actually interwoven - nuclear energy research might benefit future space propulsion systems and vice versa.

I'd say B&M should set a series of increasingly larger prizes for the private teams who a) build first portable and safe nuclear reactor b) build first probe that can reach Mars c) build first interesting nuclear powered rocket that's cost effective compared to current chemical engines - and so on and so forth. In fact, with proper usage of this huge money pile Bill Gates himself could really become a New Messiah, just think of this - 100 or 200 years from now all the history books will speak of him as of a man as important to science as Einstein or any other genius. He wouldn't be a pure sience man, he would be a Man Who Did The Major Breakthrough In Energy and Space Flight, the biggest breakthrough in the history of humanity, comparable to Theory of Relativity or something... all of this just by using his money wisely (and consulting masher in the process - joke but who knows how much joke is in this (c) russian proverb)

Instead of this they feed African kids. I have nothing against kids or Africans, but unfortunately I tend to agree here with masher - looks like Bill & Melinda just lost their chance to raise to the level of The Greatest People of All Time, you know. History will remember them as a couple of great phylantropists, who saved so many African kids... not too bad anyway, but think of the Real Big Chance they missed.

now some off topic, sorry guys:)

masher, you're one big pessimist here, why don't you post something more optimistic than impending China assimilation of Taiwan or enviro freaks killing US economy? I'd like to see your posts double sided, one pessimistic post per one optimistic. I know that wisdom makes world look much more grim, but really, can't you just be a little bit less depressing? please? :) your blog is the best one from those I know on the net, but it is sooo grim sometimes... and it is all scientifically calculated and presented, just dry facts - this makes it even worse than usual opinionated cheap pieces in cheap media that start like "I _think_ this is so - blah blah..."

I'm just scared after reading some of your posts :) please find some less depressing facts, I think there should be some around ;) thank you

RE: Ansari X Prize
By DigitalFreak on 6/27/2007 3:46:57 PM , Rating: 2
I think his point is that they should be spending the money on space research so that all the AIDS infected people could be left behind on Earth while the rest of us move to a new planet.

RE: Ansari X Prize
By masher2 on 6/28/2007 9:59:58 AM , Rating: 1
> "masher, you're one big pessimist here, why don't you post something more optimistic...your blog is the best one from those I know on the net, but it is sooo grim sometimes... "

Oh, come sir! When I post that climate change has been occurring up and down for hundreds of millions of years, all without harming the planet in any way, I think that's a glad tiding. When I post research showing that rising CO2 will not lead to runaway warming, I think that's a cheerful thought.

Quite frankly, I am an optimist at heart. That explains why I decry the doom-and-gloom propaganda of fear used so often on a complaisant populace.

RE: Ansari X Prize
By Pirks on 6/28/07, Rating: 0
RE: Ansari X Prize
By timmiser on 6/27/2007 5:11:32 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, the BMGF is funding research.

In the form of Education.

Research takes good researchers and good researchers come from good educators.

You know, the leg bone is connected to the...

RE: Ansari X Prize
By thatguy39 on 6/28/2007 6:44:32 PM , Rating: 2
So we would see the first factories in Orbit right now... AND?

How does that do a damn thing? How does that save lives?

I'm a huge huge HUGE space buff... but arguments like that kill the entire movement... you wanna compare Space flight to stopping AIDS and feeding children just shows how little you value the lives of people in need which frankly sounds damn near racist.

I dont know if you belong at a Klan meeting or not, but try to value life a little more and get out the bubble.

RE: Ansari X Prize
By Fritzr on 7/4/2007 11:45:58 PM , Rating: 2
This is going to sound cold bloodedly uncaring and it is.

Much of the current problem with AIDS results from a few basic characteristics.
* Under palliative treatment it remains contagious without visible symptoms
* It is presently incurable
* It usually takes decades to kill a victim
* Immunity does exist, but is exceedingly rare in the current population

We have a few choices.
* Fund research for a cure or preventive vaccine
* Remember what minimized the TB pandemic prior to the existence of effective medications & isolate all identified carriers of HIV in sanatoriums. Along with active search for carriers not confined
* Wait until the epidemic has wiped out the population that chooses to place itself at risk and is not immune. This has been the attitude in several countries. This was the attitude in US early on when it was thought that only "wicked" people could catch it.

B&MG simply believe the first option for correction of the HIV problem is worth investing in. This is not the only thing they invest in & they are not concentrating on a single magic bullet.

There is lots of room for a bio-tech X-Prize ... An effective HIV vaccine would be a wonderful candidate ... of course the contenders would need funding to pay for the research that earns them the prize ... Hmmm, seems to me that the B&MG Foundation is doing their part to win this unannounced X-Prize :P

Not normally a fan of Bill G, but in this case, while I might set different priorities, he is putting his money to work on reaching many bio-tech finish lines ... For some things an X-Prize is not needed as there are so many contestants racing for the finish line without the expectation of getting the pretty award to put on the mantle. For other things an X-Prize is needed since without the glory & trophy given to the winner the work will be in the hands of tinkerers who may take years to finish a month-long project or governments who may finish 90% before quitting and burying the result when the political winds shift.

Both approaches have advantages, both approaches have goals that they best achieve. Let the folks who have the cash to toss in, decide which bin they toss it in.

RE: Ansari X Prize
By masher2 on 6/27/2007 3:59:16 PM , Rating: 2
> "I am not saying space exploration isnt a good priority for 'humanity', but saying its better for humanity is just plain stupid"

I don't think you're considering the net benefits of spaceflight. First of all, it will eventually insulate mankind from extermination. Nothing else will do that. Nothing.

Without space travel, man will eventually become extinct. This is simple fact. Sooner or later, anything from a meteor strike, pandemic plague, a nearby GRB (gamma-ray burst), or some other natural, cosmic or man-made calamity will end our tenure on the planet.

But the nearer-term benefits of spaceflight are immeasureable as well. Orbital manufacturing will do a thousand times more to clean up the environment than all the laws we can ever hope to pass. Exploiting the resources of the asteroid belt and other planets will provide massive economic growth-- riches sufficient for us to devote trillions of dollars to social causes.

Take a look at the social programs which existed in 17th Century Europe or America. Ok...that took all of 5 seconds. There weren't any. They couldn't afford them. It was only as society grew richer that we could afford such luxuries. A space-based society will be a dozen times more prosperous than we are today, sufficient enough to raise the standard of living of the poorest people in the third world above what even a middle-class American has today.

I won't even get into the spinoff benefits of spaceflight research. It's hard to predict what they'll be...just as, in 1960, it was hard to predict that the Apollo program would soon enable weather satellites to save hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in property damage. Or that satellite miniaturization and telemetry spinoffs would save thousands of lives in the medical devices field. Basic research pays off, a thousand times over. It always has, and always will.

RE: Ansari X Prize
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 6/27/2007 6:20:19 PM , Rating: 2
I think they should spend more money on blow-pops, I'm tired of all the old flavors, I want new ones!

"A space-based society will be a dozen times more prosperous than we are today, sufficient enough to raise the standard of living of the poorest people in the third world above what even a middle-class American has today."

Though I agree, a space-based society will be much better standard of living, really for all people. However, I have to say this, "Good luck storming the castle. You think they will succeed? It will take a miracle." A quote from Miracle Max.

Remember one thing, anyone with indoor plumbing, tap water, or heat (if add A/C forget it, no competition) has better living quarters than any King did 130 years ago. So, in another 130 years what will life be like? Not really sure but would guess one of two things (if there still is life as we know): 1) sticks and stones or 2) lasers and little computer robots inside your body to keep you “healthy”.

RE: Ansari X Prize
By Ringold on 6/28/2007 4:13:41 PM , Rating: 2
I reckon there will always be some people who, despite all logic, will value things such as this as less worthy than cold-cash welfare spending. It could very well be the same half the population that doesn't see the secondary effects of tax cuts.

I think the economic trends are quite clear. By 2100, America will be irrelevant, especially if intercepting ICBM's becomes childs play. Not entirely irrelevant, but virtually without any weight at all in much the same way France and Germany are today. The easiest way to buck that trend and really send the history of man in a different direction would be to have, by 2100, not just research colonies but cities populated by citizens who own housing and go to work on the Moon and Mars, just like in a city on Earth, and to have these cities flying the American flag, all economically productive. And of course have them defended by the most powerful military in (known) space.

I'll admit some welfare spending is necessary to improve the quality of some peoples lives but I agree; if such a future were to pass, the Gates foundation may not even warrant a footnote in the history books of 2100 while our advances in space would dominate the narrative.

RE: Ansari X Prize
By Fritzr on 7/5/2007 12:03:37 AM , Rating: 2
Once those colonies are placed and on their feet, Washington will have to be very careful about what is said :P

In 1775 there was a civil war in the Americas ... loyal Englishmen were fighting to get better treatment from the Crown. Then our king told Parliament that the colonists were in rebellion. When word of the king's speech reached the colonies the reply was submitted for approval on July 2, 1776

It was released for public proclamation on July 4, 1776 and the civil war to secure decent treatment as loyal subjects of the crown, became a civil war to secure the right to secession from the Empire. Incidentally the second War of Independence by Americans fed up with the high handed tactics of their legitimate government was lost by the rebels, which is why it is known today as the Civil War in the North & The War Between the States in the South.

USA today remains a colonial power, but the manner of building and maintaining an empire has changed from direct rule to economic dependency. Who knows what changes the future will bring that will affect the way an empire is built and maintained.

RE: Ansari X Prize
By thatguy39 on 6/28/2007 6:52:44 PM , Rating: 2
> I don't think you're considering the net benefits of spaceflight. First of all, it will eventually insulate mankind from extermination.

By your logic we should abandon everyone in need now and only worry about the future. Since you're so willing to throw other peoples lives away for the goal of spaceflight, why don't you be the first?

Give all your money to funding your own competition!

Put up your house (if you own one), get two jobs and make it happen. Put your life where you put everyone else who was not born into your social-economic class.

If you believe it so much its worth condemning other people to death, you could at LEAST make some donations of your own.


RE: Ansari X Prize
By thatguy39 on 6/28/2007 6:36:26 PM , Rating: 2
Bill Gates is giving money for things in need NOW. In case you forgot, people are starving NOW, dying NOW. He's also spending money on building infrastructure so that 2 billion people in developing countries can have bank accounts, get an education, have electricity, health care etc...

Lets just take all the money out our pockets, all the food from everyones mouths and just put all our effort into space flight. That way, we'll all starve millions would die but at least we got to Mars a few years early.

How many lives has the Ansari family saved with this funding? Damn...think before you speak.

carmack lands
By kenji4life on 6/27/2007 5:53:46 PM , Rating: 2
After Carmack lands on the moon, he'll soon go to mars. This spells certain DOOM when the martians decide to invade.

RE: carmack lands
By timmiser on 6/27/2007 8:11:54 PM , Rating: 2
Could it be for preliminary research on Doom 5?

very cool
By Moishe on 6/27/2007 11:50:15 AM , Rating: 2
That's a lot of dough. Great thing about this is that it's almost completely guaranteed to be won this year. After last year Armadillo has everything covered and this should be a breeze. I'm curious about who the 9th team is, but I think the performance of Unreasonable Rocket will be one of the more interesting items.

"If you mod me down, I will become more insightful than you can possibly imagine." -- Slashdot

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