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Masten Qualifies For $1 Million Space Prize

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the fly-me-to-the-moon dept.

Space 40

RobGoldsmith writes "Masten Space Systems successfully qualified for first place in level two of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge Wednesday. Flying a brand new vehicle named XA-0.1E (nicknamed Xoie), Masten demonstrated their ability to build, debug and fly a vehicle on a very short timeline. " Reader lessgravity points out a video of the craft completing its mission. Apparently, the team was given an extra shot at the challenge on Friday after having trouble during their scheduled attempts on Wednesday and Thursday, which didn't please John Carmack, founder of rival team Armadillo Aerospace.

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40 comments

Jewwws Innnnnn Spaaaaaace! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29932507)

first post

I can well imagine that Carmack is royally POed (2, Interesting)

shadocat2 (1387243) | more than 4 years ago | (#29932555)

I'm really happy for David but...

John's been working on his vehicle for about a decade. Losing the the prize because the judges decided to go soft on the rules has really got to hurt.

Heck, Carmack's spent so much money on his vehicle that he's had to take time off to put out new versions of Doom and Quake just to refill the coffers.

Re:I can well imagine that Carmack is royally POed (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 4 years ago | (#29932571)

And yet they didn't see fit to spend an extra few months on their guidance system to be sure they came in first. Why did they fly in September if they could have worked another month?

Re:I can well imagine that Carmack is royally POed (4, Insightful)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 4 years ago | (#29932693)

Their guidance systems came within about 2' of each other, at which point it's already absurd to call a "winner" on that factor alone since it will have NO bearing in any real world usage. The contest rules prioritized the wrong deciding factor. And because of that (basically it was down to an extra crap shoot that only the other team was allowed) Carmack is legitimately pissed. Run this test 10 times and average it out, with a big penalty for total failure. THEN we'll see which design is something that should be used in a real mission landing.

Re:I can well imagine that Carmack is royally POed (0)

kwerle (39371) | more than 4 years ago | (#29932713)

Their guidance systems came within about 2' of each other, at which point it's already absurd to call a "winner" on that factor alone since it will have NO bearing in any real world usage...

I thought the whole point was that there would be NO "real world usage".

har har

About 2' ?! no wonder US space program screwed (0, Offtopic)

fantomas (94850) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933237)

No wonder the US space program is screwed, if you're taking perfectly fine reported measures in metric (20cm, 78cm) converting them into Imperial and guesstimating what you end up with.

I suppose 5% inaccuracy is fine for this but you'd be a bit worried if you were in space and the NASA guys were taking the ESA / Russian space agency data and saying "hang on a minute guys, we'll work that out to the nearest foot".

Re:About 2' ?! no wonder US space program screwed (-1, Troll)

Neoprofin (871029) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933405)

And to cook in metric you need special tools because 200g of rice isn't the same as 200g of flour. Of course it makes perfect sense to take a volume, convert it to a mass(calculated by weight), and then convert it back to a volume.

Neither of which is at all relevent to the story, and I hope we both get modded down.

200g flour vs 200g rice, gloriously off topic (1, Offtopic)

fantomas (94850) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933449)

gloriously off topic but who cares, it's just an idle chat space after all....

200g flour not the same as 200g of rice? run that one past me, I'm curious! :-)

Also I don't get your bit about cooking in metric needing special tools, suggesting that cooking in Imperial doesn't need special tools, that the overhead on using metric is higher than using Imperial. Over here in the UK most measuring devices do both but increasingly are metric so "special tools" is more like Imperial rather than metric. How does cooking 200g rice vs 200g flour need more tools than cooking 8oz rice vs 8oz flour?

Obviously too early in the morning for me but if a recipe asked for 200g flour and then 200g rice surely the weight is the same. They might displace different volumes but surely 200g is 200g on my scales? Recipes over here in the UK tend to be by weight rather than some things by weight and some things by volume (unless its a liquid).

Don't even get me started on US measurements of "cups" , that really confused me for a long time :-) I have lots of different cups in my cupboard and they are all different sizes. No idea which one is the official, standard sized one! Big chunky mugs for drinking tea when you're in the workshop, tea cups for nice meals, couple of little posh coffee cups for espressos, all different sizes.... no idea which is the official "cup".

cheers, idling away the morn...

Re:200g flour vs 200g rice, gloriously off topic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29933549)

Well you see, flour is more dense than rice because there is less air space in between each particle. So clearly if you have 200g of each, the flour will have a greater mass.

Re:200g flour vs 200g rice, gloriously off topic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29933849)

How would it be different if you measured the two in Imperial measures?

Re:200g flour vs 200g rice, gloriously off topic (1)

quercus.aeternam (1174283) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937991)

No, no, you've got it all wrong!

The primary reason 200g of flour has greater mass than 200g of rice is because it's moving faster. The faster things move, the more important they are. For example, suppose you are receiving a fistful of flour to the face. It's moving faster, relative to you, hence it's more important - and relative importance is directly related to mass.

This is the real reason that so many people are fat - it's far easier to achieve than moving faster.

Unfortunately, similar reasoning seams to take place in the brains of many politicians. Unfortunately, while bloat and speed have similar effects on importance, one is generally preferable.

Re:200g flour vs 200g rice, gloriously off topic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29937735)

Don't even get me started on US measurements of "cups" , that really confused me for a long time :-) I have lots of different cups in my cupboard and they are all different sizes. No idea which one is the official, standard sized one! Big chunky mugs for drinking tea when you're in the workshop, tea cups for nice meals, couple of little posh coffee cups for espressos, all different sizes.... no idea which is the official "cup".

cheers, idling away the morn...

Well, of course a cup is 8 oz.... unless, obviously, you're measuring water for coffee. Then, it's 6oz. I mean, it's so obvious.

Re:200g flour vs 200g rice, gloriously off topic (1)

Neoprofin (871029) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966066)

I hadn't noticed that anyone had replied to this so I hope you actually get a chance to read.

"Special tools" would be the measuring cups that I have seen that have gram measurements printed on the inside because as I said the volume of 100g of flour is different than the volume of 100g of rice. Since not everyone has scales to measure these things and even if they did it wouldn't be any faster unless you're particularly good at estimation I consider this a flaw in the way recipes are written in metric. Metric has a measurement of volume, why not use it?

Re:About 2' ?! no wonder US space program screwed (3, Informative)

cyn1c77 (928549) | more than 4 years ago | (#29935517)

Your snotty comment would have teeth except that the US was the first country to put men on the moon (using imperial units) and has a very long and successful space exploration history compared to that of other countries.

NASA has only had two mishaps due to units conversion errors and these both occurred AFTER they started moving to metric. Their space program and code libraries are 50 years old, so it may take a few years to get all the conversion bugs out.

Of course, another viewpoint is that things worked better when they just stuck with the imperial system, hmmmmmmmm?

Re:About 2' ?! no wonder US space program screwed (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937085)

And your response exemplifies the attitude of the ESA, which has never actually done anything of significance in space compared to NASA - a bunch of whiny representative countries debating meaningless politics and technicalities instead of just getting off their asses and DOING something useful.

Congratulations, you should apply.

Re:I can well imagine that Carmack is royally POed (5, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 4 years ago | (#29932913)

And yet they didn't see fit to spend an extra few months on their guidance system to be sure they came in first. Why did they fly in September if they could have worked another month?

Basically, after qualifying for the prize he wanted to focus on other aspects of the rocket which would be more useful for the (rather more lucrative) commercial operations they have planned, and spending a load of money and time to buy and rerun with a differential RTK [wikipedia.org] GPS system would mostly only be useful for getting a better contest score.

It's really worthwhile to read through the statement from John Carmack. He definitely doesn't hold anything against Masten (he says he would have done the same thing in their place and also said that it would be "probably also beneficial to the nascent New Space industry to get more money to Masten than Armadillo, since we have other resources to draw upon"), but does hold some bitterness towards the decision of the judges:

http://www.hobbyspace.com/nucleus/index.php?itemid=16507 [hobbyspace.com]

For the past couple weeks, as it became clear that Masten had a real shot at completing the level 2 Lunar Lander Challenge and bettering our landing accuracy, I have been kicking myself for not taking the competition more seriously and working on a better landing accuracy. If they pulled it off, I was prepared to congratulate them and give a bit of a sheepish mea culpa. Nobody to be upset at except myself. We could have probably made a second flight in the drizzle on our scheduled days, and once we had the roll thruster issue sorted out, our landing accuracy would have been in the 20cm range. I never thought it was worth investing in differential RTK GPS systems, because it has no bearing on our commercial operations.

The current situation, where Masten was allowed a third active day of competition, after trying and failing on both scheduled days, is different. I don't hold anything against Masten for using an additional time window that has been offered, since we wouldn't have passed it up if we were in their situation, but I do think this was a mistake on the judges part.

I recognize that it is in the best interests of both the NASA Centennial Challenges department and the X-Prize Foundation to award all the prize money this year, and that will likely have indirect benefits for us all in coming years. It is probably also beneficial to the nascent New Space industry to get more money to Masten than Armadillo, since we have other resources to draw upon. Permit me to be petty enough to be upset and bitter about a half million dollars being taken from me and given to my competitor.

The rules have given the judges the discretion to do just about anything up to and including awarding prize money for best effort if they felt it necessary, so there may not be any grounds to challenge this, but I do feel that we have been robbed. I was going to argue that if Masten was allowed to take a window on an unscheduled day with no notice, the judges should come back to Texas on Sunday and let us take our unused second window to try for a better accuracy, but our FAA waiver for the LLC vehicle was only valid for the weekend of our scheduled attempt.

Re:I can well imagine that Carmack is royally POed (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933063)

Which is my point. We shouldn't really be getting our panties in a twist over Jon Carmack losing a contest that Jon Carmack lost.

If he really cared about it then he could have spent another month perfecting it. Doing it early smells of "Best of luck but I'm busy with other things." Which is fine, but it just means that if he doesn't care, then I most certainly won't. :D

Re:I can well imagine that Carmack is royally POed (3, Insightful)

RedWizzard (192002) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933381)

Which is my point. We shouldn't really be getting our panties in a twist over Jon Carmack losing a contest that Jon Carmack lost.

If he really cared about it then he could have spent another month perfecting it. Doing it early smells of "Best of luck but I'm busy with other things." Which is fine, but it just means that if he doesn't care, then I most certainly won't. :D

You have a point, but so does Carmack. The judges reduced the impact of the weakness of Marsten's vehicle (reliability). They've effectively changed the focus of the competition. And Armadillo might well have won the level 2 prize a year ago given the same sort of leeway. I don't think it's at all unreasonable for Carmack to feel aggrieved. I would in his position.

Re:I can well imagine that Carmack is royally POed (3, Funny)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#29932575)

Carmack's plan is to build a spacecraft to take him to Mars so that further research can be done - especially on interdimensional travel.

Re:I can well imagine that Carmack is royally POed (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29932587)

<quote>I'm really happy for David but...
<p>
John's been working on his vehicle for about a decade.  Losing the the prize because the judges decided to go soft on the rules has really got to hurt.
</p><p>
Heck, Carmack's spent so much money on his vehicle that he's had to take time off to put out new versions of Doom and Quake just to refill the coffers.</p></quote>

<quote>I'm really happy for David but...
<p>
John's been working on his vehicle for about a decade.  Losing the the prize because the judges decided to go soft on the rules has really got to hurt.
</p><p>
Heck, Carmack's spent so much money on his vehicle that he's had to take time off to put out new versions of Doom and Quake just to refill the coffers.</p></quote>

<quote>I'm really happy for David but...
<p>
John's been working on his vehicle for about a decade.  Losing the the prize because the judges decided to go soft on the rules has really got to hurt.
</p><p>
Heck, Carmack's spent so much money on his vehicle that he's had to take time off to put out new versions of Doom and Quake just to refill the coffers.</p></quote>

I read on facebook that (His hole-in-the-wall-y-ness) John Allsup John is pondering the question of what could happen if Turing's result on the Halting problem applied to things other than Turing machines? (And whether he can make some money from the solution ;-) )
8 minutes ago &#183; Comment &#183; Like

John AllsupJohn is still pondering the question of what could happen if Turing's result on the Halting problem applied to things other than Turing machines? (And whether he can make some money from the solution ;-) )
8 minutes ago &#183; Delete

John AllsupJohn is [-- insert recursive still generator here and do something else --] pondering the question of what could happen if Turing's result on the Halting problem applied to things other than Turing machines? (And whether he can make some money from the solution ;-) )
7 minutes ago &#183; Delete

John Allsup[if i & if [make two = company] and if i & if & is [make three = crowd]] (in english) and somehow ip also becomes a similarly atomic word: won't the english language suddenly lose all of its original intended meaning?

Re:I can well imagine that Carmack is royally POed (1)

lastgoodnickname (1438821) | more than 4 years ago | (#29932829)

We know where you're going and when you'll get here. Your bill will waiting. Don't stress it for now, mmm k?

Re:I can well imagine that Carmack is royally POed (3, Insightful)

ddt (14627) | more than 4 years ago | (#29932655)

They've never been lax with John when he had complications like these. This really comes across as unfair to me, particularly in light of the fact that he has done the most with the least money while also being the most open about his process.

Re:I can well imagine that Carmack is royally POed (1)

saiha (665337) | more than 4 years ago | (#29932721)

Well they shouldn't be lax with anyone on this. But do you have specific examples where they have been unfair? Or a site that could show this? John's blog unfortunately seems quite sparse (though maybe his .plan would be a better source).

Re:I can well imagine that Carmack is royally POed (1)

Aldenissin (976329) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933039)

Well they shouldn't be lax with anyone on this. But do you have specific examples where they have been unfair? Or a site that could show this? John's blog unfortunately seems quite sparse (though maybe his .plan would be a better source).

I agree that they shouldn't be "lax", but I feel that they should follow the spirit of the contest and make decisions to help execute the ultimate goal. Having said that, it should be done fairly, and to the letter. If not given extra time, and that is in the rules, that isn't really in the spirit.

  I think that it may have been a good call, but only once the facts are out will it be truly known. If the rules were written with much forethought and righteousness, and the judges had righteous intentions, then the right call was made. Fact is, things happen. One "honest" mistake shouldn't fail you. So in your excitement you didn't see the kink in the fuel line (or whatever happened), I think that a good contest SHOULD overlook that.

  While I whole heartedly believe in strictness and discipline, we can't allow ourselves to go overboard. That is not what the contest is about. It is to foster innovation. If you have a machine that will do the job, but a small mistake was made, then by all means try again. It's ok. The point is whether your machine can fly, and within the goals with a reasonable attempt. We aren't on the moon with it just yet.

  In other words, it's about whether you can demonstrate you have won the fight, not whether you hit all 43 buttons to King's (Tekken) combo move without ever making a mistake.

Re:I can well imagine that Carmack is royally POed (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29935085)

So in your excitement you didn't see the kink in the fuel line (or whatever happened), I think that a good contest SHOULD overlook that.

I'm guessing you went to one of those schools where they patted you on the head if you got the answer wrong and gave you an 'A' anyway because at least you made a *effort* to get it right.

The universe doesn't "overlook" mistakes like a kinked fuel line (or any other serious flaws that you missed "in your excitement") -- indeed, it rewards such mistakes in a totally appropriate way.

Armadillo's not the only team to get screwed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29935807)

I have to imagine Unreasonable Rocket's not going to be happy about this either - if Masten weren't allowed the extra day, and if Unreasonable doesn't pull Level II off tomorrow (and they're having problems right now so it looks unlikely), then they would have been able to compete against Masten next year for Level II. Which is why the official comment by the organization is so bogus:

"This scheduling adjustment has been made by the Official Judges in keeping with the letter and spirit of the rules and in the interests of the fairness of the competition."

OK so it's within the letter of the rules because the judges are given so much discretion. But in keeping with the spirit of the rules, and in the interests of fairness? Were they able to come up with that with a straight face?

This just makes the organization look bad.

Re:I can well imagine that Carmack is royally POed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936697)

"For the past couple weeks, as it became clear that Masten had a real shot at completing the Level 2 Lunar Lander Challenge and bettering our landing accuracy, I have been kicking myself for not taking the competition more seriously and working on a better landing accuracy. If they pulled it off, I was prepared to congratulate them and give a bit of a sheepish mea culpa. Nobody to be upset at except myself. We could have probably made a second flight in the drizzle on our scheduled days, and once we had the roll thruster issue sorted out, our landing accuracy would have been in the 20-centimeter range. I never thought it was worth investing in differential RTK GPS systems [as Masten did], because it has no bearing on our commercial operations.

        "The current situation, where Masten was allowed a third active day of competition, after trying and failing on both scheduled days, is different. I don't hold anything against Masten for using an additional time window that has been offered, since we wouldn't have passed it up if we were in their situation, but I do think this was a mistake on the judges' part.

        "I recognize that it is in the best interests of both the NASA Centennial Challenges department and the X Prize Foundation to award all the prize money this year, and that will likely have indirect benefits for us all in coming years. It is probably also beneficial to the nascent New Space industry to get more money to Masten than Armadillo, since we have other resources to draw upon. Permit me to be petty enough to be upset and bitter about a half-million dollars being taken from me and given to my competitor.

        "The rules have given the judges the discretion to do just about anything up to and including awarding prize money for best effort if they felt it necessary, so there may not be any grounds to challenge this, but I do feel that we have been robbed. I was going to argue that if Masten was allowed to take a window on an unscheduled day with no notice, the judges should come back to Texas on Sunday and let us take our unused second window to try for a better accuracy, but our FAA waiver for the LLC vehicle was only valid for the weekend of our scheduled attempt."

WA-5H? (2, Funny)

Toze (1668155) | more than 4 years ago | (#29932711)

Well, if they've got XA-0.1E, how about WA-5H for the next version. Or maybe KA-7.33?

Re:WA-5H? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29936347)

Not unless it can hit a bulls-eye from a quarter-mile away, and we can watch it soar like a leaf on the wind.

X-Prize or corporate blog? (1)

gordguide (307383) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933477)

While I really appreciate the parent's bringing up the matter of Wednesday's X-Prize competition, I was somewhat less impressed by all the links in the parent post going to the winner's own accounts of the event, particularly when the contest is somewhat mired in controversy.

You have to give a few points for including the one link to the New Scientist news report. But:
"... in level two of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge Wednesday. Flying a brand new vehicle ..." ... seems like a pretty good place to include a link to the x-prize dot org site, no?

http://space.xprize.org/lunar-lander-challenge/ [xprize.org]

the judges can change the rules (2, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#29933907)

The official rules, which are no longer available btw, contain many caveats of the form "at the sole discretion of the judges".. these give the judges power to change the rules as they go along and they're not ashamed to do it. If they have a competition next year I expect many people will be looking at this situation and seriously doubting if it is worth competing.. how can you put time and money into a competition built on shifting sands.

Sour grapes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29943570)

Sour grapes and a poor sport. Carmack was beat, and he needs to accept that it is not only possible for somebody to beat him, it did in fact happen. And were not talking about a year later, were talking a month. He looks immature with this kind of response and he should know that complaining and making it public so that the fan boys outcry can only hurt him and other people's opinion of him. The matter of the fact is, is that Carmack had all the opportunity in the world to try to improve his accuracy before the deadline. He didn't because his ego clouded his judgement until it was too late. Good for Masten, may the best team win. And they did win according to the judging criteria.

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