$1m lunar lander ‘X prize’ awarded

Author: AP

The X Prize Foundation said that Mojave, California-based Masten Space Systems
had a better landing accuracy than was achieved by Armadillo Aerospace of
Rockwall, Texas, which got $500,000 (£302,000) for second place.

The teams flew robotic rockets that had to rise more than 160 feet (49
metres), stay aloft for at least 180 seconds while travelling to a rocky
landing pad, and then fly back to the starting point.

The flight profile simulates what would be required to descend from lunar
orbit, land on the moon and then lift off again to return to lunar orbit.

Nasa put up $2 million (£1.2 million) in prizes for the Northrop Grumman Lunar
Lander Challenge as an incentive to spur development of technology by space
entrepreneurs.

In a less-demanding lower level of the competition, Armadillo was first and
won $350,000 (£211, 692) while Masten got $150,000 (£90,740) for second
place.

A father-son team called Unreasonable Rocket had unreasonable luck with two
rockets during the weekend in Cantil, California. One rocket dubbed Blue
Ball ran out of fuel in the lower level challenge. Its second rocket, Silver
Ball, which was intended for the top level, was wrecked in a test while
tethered to a crane.

Andrew Petro, Nasa’s Centennial Challenge program manager at Nasa headquarters
in Washington, D.C., said in a press release that the contest had the
intended effect.

“These companies have demonstrated reusable vehicles with rapid turnaround and
a surprising degree of precision in flight, and they have done all this at a
much lower cost than many thought possible,” he said.

Nasa will present $1.65 million (£998,000) in prizes on Thursday. Armadillo’s
first-place award in the lower level competition was presented last year.

The X Prize Foundation managed the contest while Northrop Grumman provided
support.

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