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2 Companies Win NASA's Moon-Landing Prize Money

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the what-happened-to-$150k? dept.

Moon 110

coondoggie writes "NASA said it will this week award $1.65 million in prize money to a pair of aerospace companies that successfully simulated landing a spacecraft on the moon and lifting off again. NASA's Centennial Challenges program, which was managed by the X Prize Foundation, will give a $1 million first prize to Masten Space Systems and a $500,000 second prize to Armadillo Aerospace for successfully completing the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge."

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humm (2, Interesting)

PIBM (588930) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964398)

1M + 0.5M = 1.65M !

Re:humm (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964414)

It's kind of like the way hard drive companies measure disk capacity.

Re:humm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29964460)

It's kind of like the way hard drive companies measure disk capacity.

No, it is kind of like the way close minded geeks and certain software engineers interprets SI prefixes.

Re:humm (1)

pleappleappleap (1182301) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964890)

That's "closed-minded" not "close minded". And those prefixes aren't the sole purview of the organizations that define SI. They were being used in science and technical fields long before SI. And, if I'm not mistaken, bit and byte aren't even SI units.

Re:humm (1)

Disgruntled Goats (1635745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966072)

And those prefixes aren't the sole purview of the organizations that define SI. They were being used in science and technical fields long before SI.

But even before SI existed Kilo still meant 10^3. Mega still meant 10^6 and Giga still meant 10^9. They never meant 2^10, 2^20, or 2^30 before being corrupted.

Re:humm (1)

Doctor Morbius (1183601) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967852)

But even before SI existed Kilo still meant 10^3. Mega still meant 10^6 and Giga still meant 10^9. They never meant 2^10, 2^20, or 2^30 before being corrupted.

Yes but KB meant 1024 bytes, MB meant 1024^2 bytes and GB meant 1024^3

Re:humm (2, Insightful)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968516)

But even before SI existed Kilo still meant 10^3. Mega still meant 10^6 and Giga still meant 10^9. They never meant 2^10, 2^20, or 2^30 before being corrupted.

OMG! Surely you aren't suggesting that computer scientists would ever take a common word and repurpose it for their own use! Where would it end? Imagine how confusing it would be if physicists started talking about the "color" of quarks or such! Inventing new meanings for existing words should obviously never be allowed... :p

your mom knew since you were three years old (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968984)

Unless you're an Apple user, in which case it's "closet minded".

Re:humm (1)

rhyder128k (1051042) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966410)

You are an ideal candidate for the position of Marketing Executive in a hardware company. [to the engineers] - "Guys, I think you've got a very closed-minded view of what some of these terms mean. Or what they could mean."

Re:humm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29967242)

What's the value of pi?
The Mathematician says: "The precise ratio of a circle to its circumference".
The Physicist says: "Approximately 3.14159 2653 (to ten decimal places)".
The Artist says "3.14!".
and ...
The engineer says: "A little more than three...".
 

Oblig. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966230)

http://xkcd.com/394/

Re:humm (3, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964436)

It's almost as easy to click the link and RTFA as it is to complain about the summary...

The extra $150,000 was awarded to one of the companies for their completion of an earlier phase.

Re:humm (3, Insightful)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964904)

"It's almost as easy to click the link and RTFA as it is to complain about the summary..."

True, but it doesn't accomplish the same thing.

If you RTFA you find out where the error in TFS came from; complaining about the summary may or may not accomplish this.

If you complain, you draw attention to the poor quality of the summary. RTFA will not do this.

Now, you can argue about what good it does to draw attention to the summary - clearly it's not like the editors care what we think of their work. I can't argue with wanting to make a point, though, and I certainly don't get where the moderators come up with GP as a troll.

Re:humm (5, Funny)

AmigaHeretic (991368) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964994)

>>It's almost as easy to click the link and RTFA as it is to complain about the summary...

Holy crap there are links to articles in the summaries?!?

Re:humm (2, Insightful)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965302)

Occasionally, but most of the time the link is to a blog, writing about another blog, who linked to a new article on some aggregator site like Engadget, that may link to the NASA article, but probably links to someone elses blog about the original article.

Rarely are the links to the actual content, without a bunch of opinions and misinterpretations thrown in for good measure.

Re:humm (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 4 years ago | (#29980238)

Hardly. I will have to give general kudos to the Slashdot editors who usually look at multiple submissions and have to make a judgement call on links in the summaries.

Yes, it is sometimes a blog post, but far more often it is the link to the actual news source (which can be a blog, too!) If the "announcement" is on a blog, that is the original source.

Word of mouth will often come through news aggregators and via blogs. Heck, I've found out some interesting stuff from blogs that I regularly visit... and then posted it on /. Still, the links to the actual source of information is often in the summaries.

Yes, summaries often lack a bit of quality that perhaps leave some room for criticism an hour or two later.... so live with it or start your own site that you think could do better. This is more a function of the rush to get a scoop than trying to be 100% accurate. I prefer the scoops of interesting information I get from slashdot rather than the polished news articles from MSNBC or Fox News... if it gets covered in the "mainstream" news at all.

One news source that I have hope will improve and gain more popularity is Wikinews [wikinews.org] . If you are a grammar Nazi and want to constantly fix somebody else's grammar on a news story.... that is the place for you. It just doesn't have the "penetration" in the geek community as /. has, unfortunately.

Re:humm (1)

daveime (1253762) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964564)

When did you hear of a NASA project that DIDN'T go overbudget ?

Re:humm (1)

butalearner (1235200) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964844)

Ah, the submitter just mixed up the conversion from metric. Happens all the time here.

Re:humm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29964862)

One reward was in Imperial dollars the other reward was in metric.

Re:humm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966172)

Score:1, Troll

You've confused the moderators with your advanced mathematical analysis. Then again, confusing moderators appears to be a regular occurrence around here.

Re:humm (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966466)

It would be nice if all government operations were this efficient - only a 10% loss, that's great!

Re:humm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29967116)

1M + 0.5M = 1.65M !

did you mean:

1M + 0.5M != 1.65M

Re:humm (1)

kayditty (641006) | more than 4 years ago | (#29969218)

No. He's French.

Re:humm (1)

tool462 (677306) | more than 4 years ago | (#29969114)

Didn't you know that anytime two monetary values are added together, the gov't tacks on 10%?

its NASA!!! (0)

mcfatboy93 (1363705) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964422)

if we have learned anything in the past, just because it works in a simulation doesn't mean it will work in reality, more or less in Zero G.

Re:its NASA!!! (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964530)

The Moon's gravity is 1/6th that of the Earth's; that's low, but is by no means "more or less zero".

Re:its NASA!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29964946)

close enough, we still need to build them here where there is gravity, bring it there where there is none and have it do what it was designed to do at like you said at 1/6th of earths gravity. It should be designed so that the gravity has no effect on its performance.

Re:its NASA!!! (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965276)

Good thing you posted Anon. Don't want anyone to know the name of the idiot posting this shit.

Re:its NASA!!! (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965602)

close enough, we still need to build them here where there is gravity, bring it there where there is none and have it do what it was designed to do at like you said at 1/6th of earths gravity.

1/6th of Earth's gravity is far from no gravity. And if you're in no gravity then you're not in 1/6th gravity.

Re:its NASA!!! (1)

.sig (180877) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965994)

Well, technically it's "less zero", as in not as zero as zero...

Re:its NASA!!! (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964656)

"if we have learned anything in the past, just because it works in a simulation doesn't mean it will work in reality, more or less in Zero G."

'Cause everyone knows the moon has no gravitational pull...

Re:its NASA!!! (1)

aicrules (819392) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964990)

Sometimes people confuse it not having enough gravitational pull to help us achieve escape velocity as we jump off the top of the jungle gym or at the apex of the highest swing that could ever have possibly been done on a swing with not having gravitational pull at all. I mean, the first time I threw a rock at the moon (1985?), I assumed it just went all the way there. I never saw it come down, nor did the broken car window next door have anything to do with this story.

Re:its NASA!!! (4, Informative)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964952)

if we have learned anything in the past, just because it works in a simulation doesn't mean it will work in reality, more or less in Zero G.

FYI, this wasn't a simulation in the sense of a computer simulation, but rather in the sense that they were not actually required to perform this test on the moon. As far as I can tell from TFA, the only thing "simulated" was the Level 2 landing site which instead of a flat landing pad was a rocky surface designed to "simulate" the surface of the moon.

So, these were real rockets that were really taking off, traveling horizontally, and landing vertically. Yes gravity would be lower on the moon (not zero) and that could certainly introduce some kinds but I think this is still a worthwhile demonstration of working technology.

Re:its NASA!!! (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 4 years ago | (#29980470)

Significantly, in terms of Delta-v expended by the design of this demonstration, these vehicles have proven that they would be capable of landing on the Moon from lunar orbit... which was sort of the point of the test.

The only thing missing from this demonstration is a removal of the GPS devices that were used for stabilization and navigation. In some ways, it would be very hard to pull off a demonstration without those navigation aids... as the FAA has specific "Earth" requirements that have to be met for vehicles flying in American airspace that don't apply on the Moon.

I would love to see a "level 3" competition for this challenge that would be even more realistic or even have the vehicles landing on the Moon.... assuming that the organization met the qualifications for the level 1 and 2 requirements first.

The funny statement by Armadillo was that they had even suggested that they had the materials and even the regulatory paperwork near completion to perform the level 2 qualification using a manned vehicle. Now that would be interesting to see.

armadillo placed second! (1)

Satanboy (253169) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964424)

woot! I've been cheering for Armadillo for a long time, hopefully we can prevent the first strogg attack if they can gain pace and get the number 1 spot soon.

Re:armadillo placed second! (3, Insightful)

TigerNut (718742) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964624)

Armadillo completed the challenge several months ago, but their landing accuracy was slightly worse than Masten's attempt. Masten completed the challenge only one day before the expiration of the contest, and was able to do it only because another competitor failed and the X prize foundation allowed Masten to use their launch window (they'd earlier used up their scheduled time slots without doing a successful flight). Armadillo didn't have time or launch permits to go back and improve their accuracy.

John Carmack was understandably disappointed in losing the $500K but is taking the long view that Masten needs the money more than they do, and they've already moved on to new projects.

Re:armadillo placed second! (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965564)

and the X prize foundation allowed

NASA allowed Masten not the X Prize Foundation.

Re:armadillo placed second! (1)

BZWingZero (1119881) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965804)

The X Prize Foundation was in charge of running the contest. It was their decision to bend the rules.

Re:armadillo placed second! (4, Insightful)

cyberthanasis12 (926691) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967078)

Armadillo completed the challenge several months ago, but their landing accuracy was slightly worse than Masten's attempt. Masten completed the challenge only one day before the expiration of the contest, and was able to do it only because another competitor failed and the X prize foundation allowed Masten to use their launch window (they'd earlier used up their scheduled time slots without doing a successful flight). Armadillo didn't have time or launch permits to go back and improve their accuracy.

John Carmack was understandably disappointed in losing the $500K but is taking the long view that Masten needs the money more than they do, and they've already moved on to new projects.

Not only that. Carmack's vehicle was bigger and thus closer to the real thing, and more difficult to handle. However the control was so accurate that the vehicle hardly oscillated or rotated at all. Much better than Masten's vehicle - even an amateur like me could see it.
IMO Carmack should get the 1st prize. Mastens did also very good job, and would deserve the 1st prize, if Carmack's vehicle were absent.

Re:armadillo placed second! (1)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965102)

Hurray! First Loser! Congrats!

It's all about timing and thrust vectors (5, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964452)

The real key to successfully land the lander is to understand that you need to apply enough thrust to slow your descent without actually reversing the velocity of the craft. If you can balance that action so that you end up only a couple pixels off the ground, you can safely put the lander down on any flat surface.

The other problem is to navigate to a flat surface, but that is also easily solved by pressing the left and right arrow keys.

As for actual controls, I prefer using the spacebar to activate the rockets, although some people like the down arrow key.

Re:It's all about timing and thrust vectors (2, Funny)

foobsr (693224) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964820)

The real key to successfully land the lander is to understand that you need to apply enough thrust to slow your descent without actually reversing the velocity of the craft.

Yes, well known since the days of the HP 65 [wikipedia.org] ("the first programmable handheld calculator in outer space") Lunar Lander [rskey.org] .

CC.

Re:It's all about timing and thrust vectors (2, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#29974112)

Hitting the backspace key in the Commodore Pet version give you negative thrust. It would actually pull you down to the lunar surface, but your lander would gain fuel. Quite useful at times.

Re:It's all about timing and thrust vectors (1)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965032)

We used a light pen on the PDP-11/34.

Other private space companies are Doomed. (5, Funny)

xxuserxx (1341131) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964494)

I am not surprised at Armadillo's success. John Carmak has been making mars simulators since the early 90s.

ate to the party (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29964580)

I should win the prize. I've been successfully landing Lunar Landers on the moon since 1979, and it only costs me 25 cents.

Rocket Club to Nasa Winner (3, Interesting)

derrickh (157646) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964598)

Wow, so in 10 years Armadillo went from a rocket club with a bunch of guys launching hobby motors in fields to building moon landers?

D

 

Re:Rocket Club to Nasa Winner (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29965692)

Is that so surprising? Have you heard of Robert Goddard? :-)

Re:Rocket Club to Nasa Winner (2, Interesting)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966490)

Wow, so in 10 years Armadillo went from a rocket club with a bunch of guys launching hobby motors in fields to building moon landers?

More accurately "to building self guided rocket powered models capable of vertical take off and landing". The craft couldn't survive the boost to orbit, let alone the extreme environment of the Earth-Moon cruise, let alone the extreme environment of the landing phase and the lunar surface.
 
Homebrew liquid fueled engines and homebrew control systems are kinda impressive hobbyist accomplishments... (With the ubiquity of compact computing, the impressiveness of the latter has dropped off considerably in my estimation.) But they're still a very, very long way from anything even remotely resembling an experimental prototype lunar lander.

Carmack was robbed (4, Interesting)

HEbGb (6544) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964682)

http://www.parabolicarc.com/2009/10/30/armadillos-mccormack-robbed-ngllc-judges/ [parabolicarc.com]

The other team had a whole extra day to improve their results that Armadillo did not. This is totally and blatantly unfair, and he has every right to be pissed.

Garbage like this will dissuade other teams from entering, no doubt.

Re:Carmack was robbed (2, Insightful)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965386)

Its not fair, but the universe doesn't have a concept of fair, just reality (or this dimensions version of reality away, thats open to debate)

Re:Carmack was robbed (1)

HEbGb (6544) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966070)

What are you talking about? This has nothing to do with "the universe", it's about the specific, deliberate decisions of crooked, misguided judges.

Re:Carmack was robbed (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967606)

No, its about building technology to land on the moon safely and for as little cost as possible.

The contest was never about giving away a million dollars to anyone but the most petty of people. I'm really far too lazy to look, but its a safe bet everyone involved spent more than the million dollar prize just getting something they could consider testing.

You're too focused on yourself and your greed to focus on the bigger picture.

It is entirely about the universe, and forwarding our ability to explore it. Get some perspective. This is bigger than the companies involved in the contest.

Re:Carmack was robbed (1)

donscarletti (569232) | more than 4 years ago | (#29978840)

You're too focused on yourself and your greed to focus on the bigger picture.

I love how you accused HEbGb of personal greed after he tried to explain this to you. I'm not sure what sort of a cut he's expecting to get from Armadillo, but it really makes you sound like a paranoid dick. However, I'll try to explain it myself, just out of personal kindness.

Its not fair, but the universe doesn't have a concept of fair, just reality

The universe is supremely fair. It is a single set of physical rules that apply to every object, there is no random chance, bias or pity. It doesn't care about you or what you want to achieve. It will kill everyone equally should they not have the conditions met for their body to function. So if it was a lunar landing situation, when Armadillo's rockets fired and Masten's didn't, the universe would have killed the pilot of Masten's rocket and spared Armadillo's. Gravity is a constant, if your equipment doesn't work when you're in space, you die. Masten had two days to launch their rocket, on the first, the rocket didn't start, on the second, it caught fire. It sounds to me like the universe had something pretty clear to say about the relative qualities of the rocket. Unreliable equipment is useless, but some judges decided to be “nice” and give it another chance. I would rather trust Armadillo's machine to protect me or my property against the infinite impartiality of gravity and vacuum.

You see, at the very core of this is physical reality, which is why the teams were originally only given two chances to achieve a landing. V^2 = u^2 + 2as means that high above a planet's surface, if your rockets don't work, you will die. Very few fortuitous or unexpected things happen in space (like being given another chance), the only variable is in the vehicle itself. The money isn't the issue, it is the misguided belief by the judges that an arbitrary criterion such as distance from the target is more important than having the equipment work when it is supposed to.

Anyway, I think you should really apologise to HEbGb, you were quite disrespectful.

Re:Carmack was robbed (2, Insightful)

cyn1c77 (928549) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965388)

Agreed!

NASA really administered this contest poorly. At a minimum, the prize money should have been equal and in my opinion, not even that would be fair.

It is really frustrating when the "judges" make rules allowances late in the game.

Re:Carmack was robbed (2, Insightful)

IrquiM (471313) | more than 4 years ago | (#29975460)

It is really frustrating when the "judges" make rules allowances late in the game.

Actually - the rules stated that the judges could do this - but yes, I agree

Re:Carmack was robbed (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966536)

As I've long predicted, when real money starts being placed on the line - that what the alt.space community calls the 'mammals' (almost hobbyist level startups) will start behaving like the 'dinosaurs' (traditional aerospace companies).
 
A very interesting Rubicon has been crossed by the nascent 'small space' industry, even if they don't realize all the implications of it yet.

You don't work in business I assume? (2, Insightful)

fantomas (94850) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967164)

"Blatantly unfair" ... hmm... I take it you don't work in the business world? :-)

I agree it doesn't sound right but then lots of people on slashdot shout that NASA should behave more like a business concern and less like a bloated government department... being totally and blatantly unfair when it suits them to get the results they want is a good way towards operating like many major corporations...

Re:You don't work in business I assume? (2, Insightful)

HEbGb (6544) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967470)

The should absolutely behave like a business concern.

But when people are robbed of their just rewards, especially for short-sighted PR reasons, it undermines the trust in the organization itself. Who in their right mind would now put up real money and effort into competing for this prize, when the organizers have already shown that they're perfectly happy to cheat?

That's bad business.

Re:You don't work in business I assume? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29969166)

That's modern business.

Fixed it for you! I'm not saying it should be this way, just that it is.

Re:You don't work in business I assume? (2, Interesting)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 4 years ago | (#29971362)

I'd say it seems like pretty god business, though still blatantly unfair.

NASA's main interest, and the purpose for funding such competitions, is in fostering private research into rocketry and space travel. This decision makes sense for several reasons: firstly, it allowed an extra device to be successfully tested, providing important data for the project developers, aiding them in improving their technologies. Secondly, it enabled them to give the lions share of funding to the more impoverished of the two projects (as Carmack himself said, Armadillo needed the money less so than Masten), helping to keep them afloat.

Sure it's rotten, but NASA made a decision that's right for NASA.

Re:Carmack was robbed (1)

Chris Gunn (1336847) | more than 4 years ago | (#29972400)

He admitted we would do the same given a chance. He knew then nature of the competition when he entered. I don't just mean the rules, but the motivations of the organisers as well. He has no valid reason to publicly complain. I can understand him *feeling* like he was robbed, that's only natural human nature. He's been expecting to win since the last competition.

Already done (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964736)

I had a programable HP calculator. I believe it was a HP-41C. That had a lander program where you needed to enter figures to determine your decent onto the moon.

That was many, many years ago. So can I now get the money for wasting so much time on it?

Re:Already done (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966106)

Two years ago I worked with my son to build a Lunar Lander program on his TI calculator; it was pretty much his introduction to programming. Good times.

Didn't NASA "simulate" that in 1969? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29964812)

  If NASA is hurting for money why pay for a simulation of something already done before? Didn't RTFA, sorry.

Re:Didn't NASA "simulate" that in 1969? (1)

kilfarsnar (561956) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979426)

I was wondering the same thing. Didn't NASA do this like six times in the 60's and 70's? Why offer a prize to do something they already know how to do?

Unless they haven't actually done it before... *puts on tinfoil hat*

It ended in some amount of controversy (5, Informative)

malakai (136531) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964830)

The team that ended up 'beating' Armadillo's accuracy was given an extra day of flights. This didn't make John Carmack or many others very happy. At the same time, people are more upset with what appears to be arbitrary judging than competition. I think any of the three final teams would have removed a part from their engine and loaned it to another team. In fact, during previous attempts this happened with RR and AA.

I don't think anyone is going to be surprised that I am unhappy about
Masten getting a fourth shot at the level 2 prize. I understand that
there is a desire to award all the prize money this year and be able
to close the books on the LLC, but I don't think it is fair. If you
can just call an abort each day, you can keep anyone else from
flying. Three swings, three misses, time's up.

John Carmack

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.

John Carmack

Re:It ended in some amount of controversy (0, Flamebait)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965438)

Whine whine, moan moan, bitch bitch.

The real point to the contest was to get the best possible design. Not sure that the extra day really helped that so much, but he did do better, which is more important than who won as far as I'm concerned.

Re:It ended in some amount of controversy (4, Insightful)

cowscows (103644) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966864)

Yeah, but it sounds like Carmack's argument is that he thinks that he could do even better yet again if they had an extra flight. Which makes sense, every time you do a test flight, you learn something, and so that should make your next flight even better. Take this further, and if your ultimate goal is to get the best possible design, then the contest should never end, because there's always room for improvement.

But in reality, when you create a contest, you have to have rules and you have to have a deadline. Bending the rules for one team but not the others is generally unfair. The extra day most certainly did help, because apparently their craft was unable to fly on its three "regulation" attempts.

Re:It ended in some amount of controversy (-1, Troll)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967694)

Well, I'm just a little weary of Carmack. I'm pretty sure he's just trying to get to Mars so he can open the Portal to hell. I think DOOM was more than a game, he knows about something on the surface of Mars and isn't sharing any info.

Its all part of his plans for Galactic domination.

I all seriousness though, we all know he won. After thinking about it more I can remember several times in my life were I felt like he seems to. "Yes, I'm supposed to be a good sport about losing, but the rules are sorta BS and we got shafted, so allow me to vent for a minute".

I can understand that I guess.

I mostly hope he doesn't turn away from future things like this. I think he's rather a douchebag, but a smart douchebag, and far far better than most of the smart douchebags we deal with in the world.

Re:It ended in some amount of controversy (5, Informative)

njvack (646524) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965652)

I think any of the three final teams would have removed a part from their engine and loaned it to another team.

And indeed, after Masten's third attempt, their rocket was damaged badly enough by a fire that they really thought they wouldn't be able to fly the next day, regardless of the judges' decision. It was the help of volunteers from other competing teams that got them off the ground the next day. In addition to fixing the problem that caused the fire, they essentially needed to replace all the wiring on the rocket.

And the next day, a bunch of Masten's team members drove up to FAR and helped Unreasonable Rocket to troubleshoot their rockets -- even though success by Unreasonable could only cost them prize money.

The members of these teams are not only ridiculously talented, they're also ridiculously open and supportive of each other. It's a bit humbling to watch.

Re:It ended in some amount of controversy (1)

stiller (451878) | more than 4 years ago | (#29975154)

I completely agree with John on this. A challenge was set. The team first to meet this challenge was Armadillo and so should be awarded the first prize. What if I better even Masten's result in a month or so? Will they take back their prize and award it to me? In the eyes of the public, the first one to complete a challenge wins it. Any deviation from this seems unfair and only hurts the image of all involved.

Ummmm (0, Troll)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964924)

Not to be a negative nancy, but didn't we *actually* do this like 50 years ago?

What's next, a $1 million prize to the first company that can build a hydrogen bomb, construct a MOSFET (or something else the government did 50 years ago).

It just seems sad that we are still at this point, 50 years later.

Sorry for the negativity..

Re:Ummmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29965006)

more evidence for the conspiracy crowd.. maybe we DIDN'T do this already.. ;)

Re:Ummmm (2, Insightful)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965132)

The difference is in cost. The hope is that for mere eraser shavings we can have small private companies develop the modern guidance and control software for a lander that would take traditional contractors with NASA direction much more to develop.

When someone says "we did it 50 years ago" remind them that we did it then with 3-4 times the budget, and improved computer technology only lends incremental advantages -- plus that there was some loss of institutional knowledge of vehicle development since we haven't developed anything successfully since the shuttle.

Re:Ummmm (3, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965142)

Yes unfortunately 30 years ago. We stopped doing it. And after 30 years most of the people who were involved retired. Or are near retiring. IF we kept it up we will probably be so much better at space travel. However the shuttle product made space travel a bad thing for government, to expensive and not far reaching enough. We need to get off the idea of the StarTrek reusable ship. Until we get much better at it.

Re:Ummmm (2, Insightful)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967774)

How do we get better at it if we don't practice, make mistakes, make surprising discoveries about what works right although we never expected it to?

We'll never learn anything if we don't try.

However, we're not really going to leave our solar system any time soon for any useful reason until we can break some things we consider 'laws of physics'. Space is just too big and it'll take too long to do anything useful. It takes too long to do anything useful other than what we can manage in orbit already. The moon is barely acceptable. Mars is a long shot and is basically a suicide mission that may but dumb luck get back home at this point. We're going to try anyway, cause thats what we do.

In the words of Brad Cooper or Wright (writers of Stargate) spoken through Jack Oneill, 'We are a curious race, we're out there now, we can use all the help we can get'

Re:Ummmm (2, Insightful)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 4 years ago | (#29971600)

Invention isn't linear. We don't actually have to be building spaceplanes in order to improve the technology required for spaceplanes.

The atmospheric portion of any spaceflight involves the same techniques as atmospheric flight in general- improving the technologies for regular flight helps with spaceflight.

The space-based portion of spaceflight involves the same techniques, regardless of whether your craft is reusable. Getting better at spaceflight in general will mean we're better at reusable spaceflight.

Spaceplanes are made of stuff. Improvements in materials and components, in all their various unrelated fields and industries, will help improve your potential spaceplane. Better computers, better fuel mixes, better launch mechanisms- you name it, you can improve it.

We don't actually need to be mucking around in woefully inadequate spaceplanes for the sake of some distant potential awesome reusable spacecraft. When we're ready to build a decent one, a decent one will definitely get built.

In the mean time, can we just use spacecraft which are actually useful?

Re:Ummmm (2, Insightful)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#29971634)

Ships can, and should be reusable. In deep space. The solution is to decouple deep space travel and launch - when you're launching the ship you need multistage and some other tricks to escape the gravity well. But when you're in space you can use the same ship to travel to Mars and back twice, with only a refueling stop, since it takes rather little energy to propel yourself once you're out of Earth's gravity.

Re:Ummmm (1)

rotide (1015173) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965254)

It seems to me that the point of these exercises is to get the civilian programs up to speed and with their own technology.

If a civilian company can duplicate or even best NASA at these "rudimentary" tasks, said company may be in a better position to be entirely self dependent.

If we can encourage these companies to "reinvent the wheel" now, they will be in a really good position to _not_ need NASA as a crutch on issues in the future.

Teaching a man to fish vs giving a man a fish..

Re:Ummmm (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965528)

Not to be a negative nancy, but didn't we *actually* do this like 50 years ago?

What's next, a $1 million prize to the first company that can build a hydrogen bomb, construct a MOSFET (or something else the government did 50 years ago).

NASA used a lunar lander (which was developed by a private contractor) roughly 40 not 50 years ago. Bell Labs not government developed the MOSFET. And unlike lunar landers, we still have operable hydrogen bombs and MOSFETs today.

It just seems sad that we are still at this point, 50 years later.

Well, things didn't work out. If we want to get back to the point we were 35-40 years ago, we have to redevelop the technology.

Re:Ummmm (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965906)

What's next, a $1 million prize to the first company that can ... construct a MOSFET (or something else the government did 50 years ago).

Exactly whom do you think constructs mosfets? Wisconsin Department of Transportation? USDA? BATF?

Now if the offered a $1M prize for the first mosfet that switches 200 KW yet fits in a SOT-23 package (surface mount, about one by three millimeters) for like electric cars and stuff, that would be interesting ...

Re:Ummmm (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29965962)

I've always wondered why Camarack is wasting his time building rockets and why NASA bothers holding such pointless contests. I wouldn't want real live people to go anywhere near these contraptions even if they do "work". Rocket science requires world class effort and resources that camarack just does not have.

If you want to do something that matters in this space contribute to material science, control systems, simulation, design automation..etc, there are a ton of possibilities. Reinventing the wheel with lox propellents is a dead end.

The spaceship prizes that hand out awards to peoples crappy little crafts for almost making it into space is also a joke. It takes 30x the thrust than what they are capable of to get into anything resembling a real orbit.

Please don't take this the wrong way - I think it would be awesome for private companies to successfully design rockets, shuttles..etc and advance the state of art beyond what NASA is capable of but these contests are more of a PR effort than an honest attempt at accomplishing a specific technological goal.

Re:Ummmm (1)

Panaflex (13191) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966296)

Until 10 years ago, Rockets were the domain of NASA, it's billionaire contractors, and freckle-faced kids. Not you've got people from all kinds of backgrounds excited and building new designs, trying new things, and raising a new generation of inventors, engineers, and students.

That's the point of these contests - more rocket scientists, tech, and healthy innovation.

Re:Ummmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29968136)

Hmmm. I'll take "You missed the point" for $2000, Alex.

This wasn't an orbital launch competition. This was a competition to build a craft capable of fulfilling the role of a re-usable lunar lander. Because we have roughly 6x the gravity here on Earth, the flight requirements were scaled to match. This was a competition to develop the control systems that would enable that sort of craft. It was also a competition to actually build and fly such a craft to prove that your control systems work in an environment that is *more* difficult to fly in than the moon. (On the moon, you don't have to worry about a gust of wind blowing you off course.) If these craft are capable of completing the contest requirements, then they are more than capable of fulfilling the requirements in the actual lunar environment.

Lunar Lander's my favorite game... (1)

smitty777 (1612557) | more than 4 years ago | (#29964948)

With the hours I've spent on it, I'm pretty overqualified to do the demo if they need me.

Re:Lunar Lander's my favorite game... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966962)

How many did you write? I bought one, it sucked, so I wrote my own. Then ported it to a different platform.

I wrote a battle tanks game in Z80 assembly, should I go to work for DARPA?

A Real Faked Moon Landing (2, Funny)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965004)

Finally some vindication for those in the tinfoil hats.

A new way to imitate the lunar landing? (1)

Zarf_is_with_you (1382411) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965060)


I see another fake Moon Shot happening! 8-)

--
Ah say, son, you're about as sharp as a bowlin' ball.

Fake! (1)

GNUThomson (806789) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965250)

This will make faking lunar landings soooo much easier! Hmmm.... unless this competition was faked, too! Quick, where's my tinfoil hat?

Competition (1)

dferrantino (1630629) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965338)

Yes, and unfortunately the contractors building spacecraft for NASA now are the same ones who built them in the 60s. Competition, in general, spurs innovation and makes things cheaper, and pushing the growth of new startups in the industry would, at the bare minimum, bring new ideas to the fore. Ideally I'm sure the goal is to get private companies more involved in launching and exploration. There are very few around currently, and most of them are still only in the developmental stages. NASA wins by both creating competition, and taking workload off of their own engineers. It also gives incentive for these companies to develop tech on their own, before government budgets come into play.

Re:Competition (1)

dferrantino (1630629) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965378)

Wow I suck at this (though I blame our IT department)...that was meant in response to the comments above asking why NASA's pumping money into this when we already did it in the 60s.

Why couldnt Nasa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29965404)

Just claim their own prize money after all they where he first to ermm 'simulate' a moon landin all of 40 odd years ago.

Carmack / Armadillo was robbed (1)

jriskin (132491) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966414)

If they were giving out extra free days last year Armadillo probably would have got 100% of the money a year ago! The judges should have taken this in to account, bonus points for accuracy? Sure, but they should lose a place just for having to try a 4th time. Fair would be armadillo gets $1.5m, being 'nice' would be $1m to armadillo and .5 to Masten. But the other way around is just totally bogus.

Armadillo definitely deserved the full million. IMHO...

First impression (1)

Venik (915777) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966486)

When I saw the title of the post, I thought the companies would be Industrial Light & Magic and Apogee.

Disgraceful farce proving NASA is incompetent (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966776)

Armadillo was robbed; Armadillo were first by MONTHS, succeeded in their allotted window in two sequential flight attempts and their craft never caught fire unlike Masten's.

Talk about destroying incentive. This is yet another illustration of the endemic incompetence at NASA. They could not organize a piss-up in a brewery.

I was robbed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29968454)

I modeled mine after the mars landings.

All I did was drop my lander from a plane and let it crater. It seemed like an easy win at the time.

"Boosted Hop" video (2, Interesting)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 4 years ago | (#29970214)

Apparently since doing their lunar lander run Armadillo Aerospace has been keeping itself busy with "boosted hops," where they fire the rocket up to a certain altitude, and then land back down under the rocket's own power. Here's a neat video of them boosting up to ~1000 feet:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYk9uGrAqn8 [youtube.com]
http://www.hobbyspace.com/nucleus/index.php?itemid=16628 [hobbyspace.com]

Starting with lower altitudes, each time they run they're going for an incrementally higher altitude. They've gone up to about 1932 feet (589m) [youtube.com] so far, with the plan to go all the way up to 6000 feet, which is the highest their FAA permit allows them to currently launch. I believe both Armadillo Aerospace and Masten Space Systems have a number of customers in the scientific community who want to use these sorts of controlled boosted hops for running things like microgravity experiments.

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