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Lunar Spacecraft Compete For $2 Million NASA Prize

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the turbo-cratermaker-9000XL dept.

Space 48

coondoggie writes "Nine rocket-powered vehicles will compete for NASA's $2 million, 2008 Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, Oct. 24-25. The goal is to accelerate development of commercial Lunar Landers capable of bringing payloads or humans back and forth between lunar orbit and the lunar surface. NASA of course would expect to use some of the technology developed at the Challenge. To win the prize, teams must demonstrate a rocket-propelled vehicle and payload that takes off vertically, climbs to a defined altitude, flies for a pre-determined amount of time, and then land vertically on a target that is a fixed distance from the launch pad. After landing, the vehicle must take off again within a pre-determined time, fly for a certain amount of time and then land back on its original launch pad." Details about the teams involved with the competition are available at the X-Prize website. The event will be broadcast live via webcast next weekend.

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48 comments

NEEDS MOAR DESU (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25421867)

First comment, desu desu

second post (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25421875)

A couple weeks ago, while browsing around the library downtown, I had to take a piss. As I entered the john, Barack Obama -- the messiah himself -- came out of one of the booths. I stood at the urinal looking at him out of the corner of my eye as he washed his hands. He didn't once look at me. He was busy and in any case I was sure the secret service wouldn't even let me shake his hand.

As soon as he left I darted into the booth he'd vacated, hoping there might be a lingering smell of shit and even a seat still warm from his sturdy ass. I found not only the smell but the shit itself. He'd forgotten to flush. And what a treasure he had left behind. Three or four beautiful specimens floated in the bowl. It apparently had been a fairly dry, constipated shit, for all were fat, stiff, and ruggedly textured. The real prize was a great feast of turd -- a nine inch gastrointestinal triumph as thick as his cock -- or at least as I imagined it!

I knelt before the bowl, inhaling the rich brown fragrance and wondered if I should obey the impulse building up inside me. I'd always been a liberal democrat and had been on the Obama train since last year. Of course I'd had fantasies of meeting him, sucking his cock and balls, not to mention sucking his asshole clean, but I never imagined I would have the chance. Now, here I was, confronted with the most beautiful five-pound turd I'd ever feasted my eyes on, a sausage fit to star in any fantasy and one I knew to have been hatched from the asshole of Barack Obama, the chosen one.

Why not? I plucked it from the bowl, holding it with both hands to keep it from breaking. I lifted it to my nose. It smelled like rich, ripe limburger (horrid, but thrilling), yet had the consistency of cheddar. What is cheese anyway but milk turning to shit without the benefit of a digestive tract?

I gave it a lick and found that it tasted better then it smelled.

I hesitated no longer. I shoved the fucking thing as far into my mouth as I could get it and sucked on it like a big half nigger cock, beating my meat like a madman. I wanted to completely engulf it and bit off a large chunk, flooding my mouth with the intense, bittersweet flavor. To my delight I found that while the water in the bowl had chilled the outside of the turd, it was still warm inside. As I chewed I discovered that it was filled with hard little bits of something I soon identified as peanuts. He hadn't chewed them carefully and they'd passed through his body virtually unchanged. I ate it greedily, sending lump after peanutty lump sliding scratchily down my throat. My only regret was that Barack Obama wasn't there to see my loyalty and wash it down with his piss.

I soon reached a terrific climax. I caught my cum in the cupped palm of my hand and drank it down. Believe me, there is no more delightful combination of flavors than the hot sweetness of cum with the rich bitterness of shit. It's even better than listening to an Obama speech!

Afterwards I was sorry that I hadn't made it last longer. But then I realized that I still had a lot of fun in store for me. There was still a clutch of virile turds left in the bowl. I tenderly fished them out, rolled them into my handkerchief, and stashed them in my briefcase. In the week to come I found all kinds of ways to eat the shit without bolting it right down. Once eaten it's gone forever unless you want to filch it third hand out of your own asshole. Not an unreasonable recourse in moments of desperation or simple boredom.

I stored the turds in the refrigerator when I was not using them but within a week they were all gone. The last one I held in my mouth without chewing, letting it slowly dissolve. I had liquid shit trickling down my throat for nearly four hours. I must have had six orgasms in the process.

I often think of Barack Obama dropping solid gold out of his sweet, pink asshole every day, never knowing what joy it could, and at least once did, bring to a grateful democrat.

Re:second post (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25422061)

Troll post fails, Obama's asshole would not be pink.

Re:second post (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25422141)

What color is Baraq Obama's asshole, oh wise one?

Re:second post (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25422179)

Milky white.

Can you guess why?

B=======D ~o ~o ~o (__)*(__)

Re:second post (0, Offtopic)

Professr3 (670356) | more than 5 years ago | (#25422185)

On a scale of one to ten, I give this troll a nine. Great wordmanship, good subject, but no buildup. If you try for something more like a Bel-Air, you might have more luck. You have to sucker-punch people, and if you leave no mystery until the end, there's no oomph.

Third Post (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25421893)

Damn, trolling Slashdot is easy today.

I would have competed (5, Funny)

stonefoz (901011) | more than 5 years ago | (#25421917)

I would have competed but I had an error in the firmware for the lander, meters converted to feet. Now I just have a crater in my back yard. Perhaps NASA doesn't need the help.

Re:I would have competed (1)

LogicallyGenius (916669) | more than 5 years ago | (#25422069)

Lets hope they use hydrogen balloons to get up first. Why waste energy in getting to the edge of atmosphere.

Re:I would have competed (2, Interesting)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25422307)

yea, it seems like using a rocket & balloon combo for space launches might be cheaper or more fuel efficient, but there are also drawbacks. it would take a long time to get up to 80km using a balloon. i think hydrogen weather balloons are only used up to 40 km, above which sounding rockets are used. also, would hydrogen be practical for large payloads? you'd need a balloon large enough to lift a rocket + lunar lander. and AFAIK high altitude hydrogen balloons (and rocket + balloon combos) are only used with relatively small payloads.

perhaps hydrogen balloons might be most efficient for applications that require little to no flight control and do not demand speed or safety. and unless you could recycle the hydrogen somehow, it'd be least wasteful to use hydrogen balloons when you need to keep something up in the air for long periods of time (such as scientific instruments for conducting atmospheric research). but i don't know what it costs to manufacture rocket fuel compared to hydrogen gas. it may very well be that for non-time-critical applications hydrogen is still cheaper than rocket fuel for launching something into space.

Re:I would have competed (1)

hvm2hvm (1208954) | more than 5 years ago | (#25422501)

How would you launch a rocket from a balloon? From the top, sideways? In both cases it will destabilize the balloon (or burn it).

No the balloons wont burn (1)

LogicallyGenius (916669) | more than 5 years ago | (#25428515)

@@@Re:No the balloons wont burn because they can be placed under the hovering launch platform. @@@Also, the hydrogen can be compressed using solar panels for energy to reduce buoyancy for coming down and not loosing the gas.. @@@If the whole platform is designed like a gigantic glider shape then we can also maneuver it when it comes down. @@@The only question is, what are the size limits for building such a launch platform for taking max heavy rockets.

Re:I would have competed (2, Interesting)

Meumeu (848638) | more than 5 years ago | (#25422781)

Most of the energy of a rocket is used to gain speed, not altitude. Even if you can reach 50km, that would only save about 1% of energy for a lunar rocket.

Re:I would have competed (1)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 5 years ago | (#25427473)

Most of the energy of a rocket is used to gain speed, not altitude.

So what about an anchored ariel platform, suspended by balloons at say 10km, used as one end of a very large slingshot? All done up in high steampunk style of course. What could go wrong?

Re:I would have competed (1)

Gregory Arenius (1105327) | more than 5 years ago | (#25429949)

The difference is larger than that because the atmosphere is densest for the first 50km. By launching from above the densest atmosphere you experience much less drag, so you need less fuel. If you need less fuel then you can either have a smaller rocket due to smaller fuel tanks or you can launch a heavier payload. The exact amount of fuel saved depends on the aerodynamics of the rocket in question and on the speed it flies at at low altitudes. Hope this helps.

Cheers,
Greg

Re:I would have competed (3, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#25423541)

Low earth orbit is around 2000km up. Geosynchronous orbit is 35,786km above the Earth's surface. The height of the top of the stratosphere, which is about as high as you can get with a balloon, is 50km. It might be possible to get as high as 100km using a magic balloon. This would get you 5% of the way to LEO, or just under 0.3% of the way to geostationary orbit. The additional complexity of building something as massive as a balloon capable of getting a huge payload of rocket fuel to the edge of the atmosphere does not justify a 0.3% saving (closer to 0.1% in practice) in initial altitude. You can get a similar order of magnitude advantage without the additional complexity by launching from a large mountain.

If you want a multi-stage design, you'd be better off looking at jet and scramjet technologies than balloons. A jet is much more efficient than a rocket, because the reaction mass and the oxidiser are both taken from outside - it only needs to carry the fuel. Remember, in getting to orbit speed is more important than altitude. Escape velocity is around 11km/s. If you start from a jet at Mach 1, you are at 3% of this speed already. If you start from a jet at Mach 4 and then use a scramjet to get up to Mach 17 (the speed of X30) you are at 50% of escape velocity (70% of orbital velocity) before you leave the atmosphere. This reduces the size of the rocket needed by a huge amount.

Re:I would have competed (3, Informative)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 5 years ago | (#25424363)

Low earth orbit is around 2000km up.

No, it's 200 km up.

If you want a multi-stage design, you'd be better off looking at jet and scramjet technologies than balloons.

That's been done already: Orbital Sciences offers the Pegasus [orbital.com] which can launch up to 450 kg into a 200 km orbit. The Pegasus weighs 23 tons at launch.
To scale this up, you'd probably need a specialized aircraft: Pegasus is about the limit for launching from underneath the fuselage (larger-diameter rockets just won't fit), so you'd need to launch from a wing pylon, and I think there are no aircraft in service that have wing pylons rated for that much weight.
If you could modify an Antonov 124 to carry its full payload (150 tons) on a wing pylon, you'd get about 450x6=2700 kg in LEO.

Re:I would have competed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25427419)

Sounds good, just let me grab those parts from my garage.

Re:I would have competed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25424697)

Quick, reformat! You've contracted the English virus. Before you know it, it'll be spitting out phrases like "How do you do old bean?", among other phrases that will drive you mad. HURRY, BEFORE ITS TOO LATE! Oh sh... [USER HAS BEEN BRITISHIZED]

Autonomous flying robot competition? (1)

TWX (665546) | more than 5 years ago | (#25421951)

For some reason one of the higher profile high school and college robotics competitions (whose name escapes me) would seem to lead toward this goal, at least as far as the frame and payload of a lander/takeoff vehicle is concerned. Of course, in this they'd have to switch from propellers to rockets, and they'd have to massively scale up both in size and in payload, but if the contest only covers the scope of the mechanics of flight and not the part about keeping occupants alive and comfortable then this could be interesting.

I'd be perversely pleased if some high school club somewhere managed to make a design that passed the tests...

Lunar Challenge (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25421967)

I'm impressed that Armadillo Aerospace has claimed that they are making a profit. The big question of course is *how*? Are they selling a lot of t-shirts? Or are they raking in the cash from rocket racing investors?

I actually think they'll be able to pull it off this year. The big question is whether they can beat Paragon Labs. I'm hoping that there will be more than one successful run this year.

Re:Lunar Challenge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25421985)

I'm impressed that Armadillo Aerospace has claimed that they are making a profit. The big question of course is *how*? Are they selling a lot of t-shirts? Or are they raking in the cash from rocket racing investors?

I actually think they'll be able to pull it off this year. The big question is whether they can beat Paragon Labs. I'm hoping that there will be more than one successful run this year.

It's easy, they're taking advantage of prior art [armorgames.com]...

Re:Lunar Challenge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25422487)

"Dallas Morning News.
Carmack noted that the venture is now making a small profit after âoeeight years of being a money pit.â Carmack is spending 20 hours a week on Armadillo, on top of 40 hours at id Software; he said Armadillo is considering hiring a âoefull-time chief executiveâ in the near future."

Re:Lunar Challenge (3, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | more than 5 years ago | (#25423287)

There are three things about Armadillo Aerospace to remember:

  • They have (comparatively) low overhead for their facilities and personnel. While I think they now have a couple of full-time employees, it is just a couple of them... plus a couple of aeronautical engineering interns and others who are all making peanuts. John Carmack's salary doesn't figure into the equation (yet). Being in Texas and Oklahoma doesn't hurt either, especially with the decommissioned air base in Oklahoma that is desperate for customers and practically subsidizing Armadillo's efforts.
  • They have been doing a couple of smallish contracts for NASA and a few other companies that are mainly propulsion studies. Armadillo is widely acknowledged as having the most practical experience with smaller liquid-fueled engines than almost anybody in the industry at the moment, where the cost of the rocket fuel is one of the major budget items for them, which is generally something most rocket launchers typically ignore due to how insignificant it is compared to operations and vehicle costs.
  • Armadillo engines are being used with the Rocket Racing League [rocketracingleague.com], where at least six of them have been sold to paying customers. I believe this is the largest source of money at the moment, and something that looks like a steady source of future income.

John does post on here occasionally, so he might fill in some details, but there is a source of income for the company. They are also not stopping with these few revenue streams either, but have some huge ambitions for the future.

One thing for sure (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25422059)

It won't be a Negro who wins the prize.

Re:One thing for sure (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#25422081)

My money is on Team Paragon:

Team members: Marie Ange Chan, Lee Laperriere, TJ Laurenzo, Michael Mathews, Duncan McDonald, Mike Newton, Mike Pollmiller, Todd Wetzel

Re:One thing for sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25422223)

Pics please. Otherwise we'll believe that Marie Ange Chan is a chink and not a black.

Re:One thing for sure (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25422563)

I can't believe it, you are completely ignoring the composition of Armadillo Aerospace...

Team Armadillo [wikipedia.org] is:
John Carmack, James Bauer, Tommy Bishop, Russell Blink, Phil Eaton, Joseph LaGrave, Neil Milburn, Matthew Ross

And just look at the progress pictures... the prettiest jet stream I've ever seen [wikipedia.org].

This is surprisingly more exciting than sports.

*BSD is Dying (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25422121)

It is now official. Netcraft confirms: *BSD is dying

One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered *BSD community when IDC confirmed that *BSD market share has dropped yet again, now down to less than a fraction of 1 percent of all servers. Coming on the heels of a recent Netcraft survey which plainly states that *BSD has lost more market share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. *BSD is collapsing in complete disarray, as fittingly exemplified by failing dead last [samag.com] in the recent Sys Admin comprehensive networking test.

You don't need to be the Amazing Kreskin [amazingkreskin.com] to predict *BSD's future. The hand writing is on the wall: *BSD faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for *BSD because *BSD is dying. Things are looking very bad for *BSD. As many of us are already aware, *BSD continues to lose market share. Red ink flows like a river of blood.

FreeBSD is the most endangered of them all, having lost 93% of its core developers. The sudden and unpleasant departures of long time FreeBSD developers Jordan Hubbard and Mike Smith only serve to underscore the point more clearly. There can no longer be any doubt: FreeBSD is dying.

Let's keep to the facts and look at the numbers.

OpenBSD leader Theo states that there are 7000 users of OpenBSD. How many users of NetBSD are there? Let's see. The number of OpenBSD versus NetBSD posts on Usenet is roughly in ratio of 5 to 1. Therefore there are about 7000/5 = 1400 NetBSD users. BSD/OS posts on Usenet are about half of the volume of NetBSD posts. Therefore there are about 700 users of BSD/OS. A recent article put FreeBSD at about 80 percent of the *BSD market. Therefore there are (7000+1400+700)*4 = 36400 FreeBSD users. This is consistent with the number of FreeBSD Usenet posts.

Due to the troubles of Walnut Creek, abysmal sales and so on, FreeBSD went out of business and was taken over by BSDI who sell another troubled OS. Now BSDI is also dead, its corpse turned over to yet another charnel house.

All major surveys show that *BSD has steadily declined in market share. *BSD is very sick and its long term survival prospects are very dim. If *BSD is to survive at all it will be among OS dilettante dabblers. *BSD continues to decay. Nothing short of a miracle could save it at this point in time. For all practical purposes, *BSD is dead.

Fact: *BSD is dying

DC-X ??? (4, Insightful)

tekrat (242117) | more than 5 years ago | (#25422227)

According to what the NASA statement wants from the vehicle, this sounds exactly like what the DC-X already was capable of doing and that technology is already available and tested. Why re-invent the wheel here?

I mean, am I crazy, or does it seem that NASA just likes doing the exact same thing over and over again, except using a whole new technology each time just to make everything more expensive than it needs to be?

Re:DC-X ??? (4, Insightful)

jcupitt65 (68879) | more than 5 years ago | (#25422361)

You're right that these projects are not doing much technically that's not been done previously by government programmes. Their innovation is that they are dramatically cheaper and that someone other than NASA is taking the risk and making the investment.

Re:DC-X ??? (1)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | more than 5 years ago | (#25422837)

Agreed, mod up.

However such innovations are necessary to commercial development, and their importance should not be underrated. It's one thing to develop a technology, it's another to bring that technology to market. Both require the same level of ingenuity.

Similarly, you wouldn't criticize Alexander Graham Bell for seeking outside help in turning his "Watson, I need you" gadget into the most valuable patent in the world. NASA is doing it in a way that I expect would be most embraced by the /. crowd. Would you rather some faceless corporation handle it?

Re:DC-X ??? (2, Interesting)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25422419)

so should we still be using Atlas or Redstone rockets? or maybe we should scrap this contest and just reuse the Apollo Lunar Module design. there's nothing wrong with trying new & potentially better technology. that's the whole purpose of technological research--to drive technology forward.

besides, the DC-X project was never completed. if McDonnell Douglas wants to complete the DC-X and submit it into the competition, then they're free to do so. of course, the prize for this contest is only $2 million, whereas the estimated cost of completing the DC-X was $50 million...

Re:DC-X ??? (1)

Sibko (1036168) | more than 5 years ago | (#25422657)

Why re-invent the wheel here?

Money.

NASA pretty much doesn't have the budget anymore. They can't afford to keep the ISS running while operating all the various probes, funding new missions, and trying to develop new technology for more lunar missions.

2 million dollars is a steal to develop the landing/liftoff component of a new lunar module. I imagine if it were left up to NASA it'd cost ten times as much.

Would a frog attached to a bottle rocket count? (2, Funny)

fortapocalypse (1231686) | more than 5 years ago | (#25422283)

Just asking... It seems like it would fit the definition:

"Rocket-propelled vehicle and payload (the frog is its own vehicle and payload, and can be rocket-propelled via bottle rocket) that takes off vertically (frogs jump), climbs to a defined altitude (frogs can jump consistently to a defined height), flies for a pre-determined amount of time (frog stays in the air a while), and then land vertically on a target (a lilypad) that is a fixed distance from the launch pad (1.5 feet away). After landing, the vehicle must take off again within a pre-determined time, fly for a certain amount of time and then land back on its original launch pad (frogs do this)."

Re:Would a frog attached to a bottle rocket count? (3, Funny)

dnwq (910646) | more than 5 years ago | (#25422421)

... what sort of mutant frogs have you seen that can jump to the defined altitude of 150 feet?

Re:Would a frog attached to a bottle rocket count? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25423517)

L'homme Super, peut etre?

Re:Would a frog attached to a bottle rocket count? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25422567)

I didn't RTFA either, of course, but I happen to know they do have a definition of the altitude (50m), time (90 and 180 seconds for level 1 and level 2) and distance (100m). So you'need one super-mega-mutant frog to achieve that - good luck.

Only a regional competition? (1)

vsage3 (718267) | more than 5 years ago | (#25422291)

I couldn't help but notice that 7 of the 10 teams were from California with the other 3 teams being from Texas, Idaho and Colorado. I have a hard time believing nobody on the east coast is capable of competing in this competition, so the question is then why is there so much apathy outside California? Perhaps it is exorbitant transportation costs and most of these teams appear to be amateurish, but I just can't help but think the competition isn't as fierce as it could have been.

Re:Only a regional competition? (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 5 years ago | (#25422947)

Aerospace has traditionally been a Midwest and West Coast tradition. With the exception of rare places like Huntsville, Alabama (where the Army ensured it got the space it needed), there just wasn't room on the densely populated East Coast for tests.

Re:Only a regional competition? (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 5 years ago | (#25423101)

Huntsville, Alabama (where the Army ensured it got the space it needed)

More likely where the Senator from Alabama (back when Southern Senators basically served for life, and thus tended to have lots of seniority) ensured that Alabama got the Federal dollars it wanted.

Re:Only a regional competition? (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 5 years ago | (#25423425)

Probably because, unlike the products of the Ansari X-Prize competition, these teams have little or no incentive outside the competition prize itself.

There is no market for lunar landers right now.

Armadillo Aerospace (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25423021)

Has already done something like this, check out their videos.

Why not be specific ? (2, Informative)

mbone (558574) | more than 5 years ago | (#25423039)

climbs to a defined altitude, flies for a pre-determined amount of time

Why not be specfic, since the details are available ?

There are two levels of difficulty. FTFA :

Level 1 requires a vehicle to take off vertically from a designated launch area, climb to an altitude of at least 150 feet, remain aloft for at least 90 seconds while traveling horizontally to a landing pad 300 feet away, then land vertically.

The much more difficult Level 2 requires a vehicle to take off from a designated launch area, ascend to an altitude of 150 feet, hover for 180 seconds, then land precisely on a simulated, rocky, lunar surface 300 feet away.

You get to refuel, then you have to come back in the same fashion.

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