Carmack's X-Prize Lunar Lander Goes Down in Flames
October 30, 2007 9:06 AM
comment(s) - last by
Armadillo Aerospace's "Pixel" launch vehicle also competed in last year's competition.
(Source: Armadillo Aerospace, 2006)
The sad part was the lander was seemingly doomed from the start.
Armadillo Aerospace, led by gaming legend John Carmack of id Software fame,
tried valiantly to win
the X-Prize as the sole competitor in the field.
The X-Prize, a long standing competition, aims to provide monetary rewards to design teams who successfully complete a space or space-related challenge, as well as other challenges that aim to benefit mankind. It is run by the X-Prize Foundation.
The most famous X-Prize event has been the Ansari X Prize event, which gave a $10 million USD prize to the first team to complete a successful suborbital flight. The award was eventually won in 2004 by the SpaceShipOne team led by Burt Rutan and financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. This team would go on to found Virgin Galactic with billionaire Sir Richard Branson.
Armadillo Aerospace, which also competed unsuccessfully in the Ansari X Prize, aimed to win the new Lunar Lander Challenge. The challenge was sponsored by Northrop Grumman.
At stake was a $350,000 USD purse, for the Level 1 challenge, which as the sole competitor was theirs to win or lose.
The Level 1 challenge required the team to launch a rocket from a designated launch area, reach an altitude of 150 feet (50 meters) and then hover for 90 seconds while landing precisely on a landing pad nearly 330 feet (100 meters) away. The flight then would be repeated in reverse - and both flights, along with all of the necessary preparation for each, had to take place within a two and a half hour period.
Originally four teams had planned to compete,
, but the other teams were not able to produce working crafts for the launch.
Over two days of attempts, Carmack's crew struggled with many difficulties. They made six flight attempts, two of which looked very successful. One of the other attempts lasted 83 seconds, even with a crack in its combustion chamber, a sign that the Armadillo Team is improving upon its designs.
On Saturday, the craft was poised to capture victory, but the multi-legged lander self-aborted and tipped over upon touching down. Then on Sunday came the worst disaster which doomed any future launch attempts. The craft was undergoing ignition and preparing to launch when a boom rocked the desert landscape and flames sprung up, engulfing the craft. The engine fire was very destructive to the craft and caused pieces to fall off and disconnected its cabling.
Peter Diamandis, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the X Prize Foundation, was quick to react with a pre-scripted response scenario. He elaborates, "From the field, we heard a little bit of a boom and there was a hard start on the engine of some type."
Pete Worden, one of the Lunar Lander Challenge judges and director of NASA's Ames Research Center, had consoling words for the Armadillo Aerospace team afterwards. "It's over for them for this X Prize Cup. I do think they are getting there...it's a robust design. I think they'll make it. Once again, it proves that rocket science is hard."
Carmack's team was not available for immediate comment, but they decided not to try for another nighttime attempt, on account of the massive damage. They will likely be back next year though with a refined design.
If Carmack's team eventually succeeds, they can set their aim to the Level 2 challenge. The Level 2 Challenge is far more difficult and requires the rocket to hover for twice as long before landing precisely on a simulated lunar surface, packed with craters and boulders to mimic actual lunar terrain. The hover times are calculated so that the Level 2 mission closely simulates the power needed to perform a real lunar mission.
The total prize for completing the Level 1 and Level 2 challenges is $1.35 million USD.
With that kind of motivation and a legend like Carmack at their helm Armadillo Aerospace seems poised to one day overcome their demons and win this challenge, despite this setback.
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
10/30/2007 10:40:16 AM
I kinda thought the whole idea with these prizes was to attract interest and development in space projects from smart people and companies outside the established space industry.
Smart people can make a big difference in fields they are not traditionally part of, if nothing else for thinking "outside the box" and approaching problems in novel ways.
I also guess Carmack knows more about rocket science than the average rocket scientist did in the 60's, since we have learned a lot since then. He doesn't have a trillion dollar budget, though. Personally I applaud any serious attempt at space exploration.
"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive
Announcing the X PRIZE Cup Lunar Lander Challenge Teams
June 27, 2007, 10:49 AM
Cool Science Video: Glowing Millipede Prowls the Nevada Desert
May 18, 2015, 12:00 PM
Newly Discovered Costa Rican Glass Frog is Kermit's Doppelgänger
April 22, 2015, 11:26 AM
Researchers Hope to Find "Exotic" Lifeforms Inside Crater of Dinosaur Killing Meteor
April 14, 2015, 8:47 PM
Mathematician's Sociological Formulation May Explain the "Hipster Paradox"
April 14, 2015, 1:13 PM
Cool Science Video: This is What a McDonald's Burger Looks Like in Your Stomach
April 7, 2015, 1:43 PM
Fraud Artist Engineered Stunning UK Jailbreak Via Typosquatting, Email
April 4, 2015, 2:57 PM
Most Popular Articles
America's Largest Cable Company, Comcast, Sees Internet Subscriptions Pass TV
May 4, 2015, 2:46 PM
Chromebooks Expected to See Sales Grow 26 Percent to 7.3 Million Units This Year
May 22, 2015, 1:26 PM
Don't Spy on Me: Senate Pushes Obama's PATRIOT Act Renewal Bid to the Brink
May 25, 2015, 8:21 PM
Buzzfeed, NatGeo, NBC, and NYT Pay to Push Stories to Your Facebook Feed
May 13, 2015, 4:31 PM
No Matter What the AP Tells You, Google's Self-Driving Cars are Pretty Safe
May 12, 2015, 1:06 PM
Latest Blog Posts
Sceptre Airs 27", 120 Hz. 1080p Monitor/HDTV w/ 5 ms Response Time for $220
Dec 3, 2014, 10:32 PM
Costco Gives Employees Thanksgiving Off; Wal-Mart Leads "Black Thursday" Charge
Oct 29, 2014, 9:57 PM
"Bear Selfies" Fad Could Turn Deadly, Warn Nevada Wildlife Officials
Oct 28, 2014, 12:00 PM
The Surface Mini That Was Never Released Gets "Hands On" Treatment
Sep 26, 2014, 8:22 AM
ISIS Imposes Ban on Teaching Evolution in Iraq
Sep 17, 2014, 5:22 PM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2015 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information