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NASA Offering $2 Million Prize for Lunar Lander

samzenpus posted about 7 years ago | from the how-hard-could-it-be dept.

NASA 159

coondoggie writes "If you build it, NASA will not only come, it'll give you $2 million dollars for your troubles. The space agency today said it will offer $2 million in prizes if competing teams can successfully build a lunar lander at the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge at Holloman Air Force Base, in Alamogordo, N.M. Oct. 27 and 28th. 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 lands vertically on a target that is a fixed distance from the launch pad. After landing, the vehicle must take off again within a predetermined time, fly for a certain amount of time and then land back on its original launch pad."

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Economics? (5, Interesting)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | about 7 years ago | (#21107541)

The thing I always wondered about these kinds of contests, like the x prize, is doesn't it cost more to build your craft than you win?

Re:Economics? (3, Insightful)

shaneFalco (821467) | about 7 years ago | (#21107577)

Call it a labor of love.... the guys that go for it are not so much interested in making it rich but in contributing to the next space landing...... Super Geeks... with a capital S

Re:Economics? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21107595)

My first contact with fisting was, of course, in San Francisco.
I was out on the coast for a round of job interviews in the Bar
area. My fluffy-sweater acquaintances in Cincinnati had scoped out
the territory the previous summer and were full of dire warnings
about South of Market in general and The Hothouse in particular,
so of course that was the first place I headed. Now, fisting
wasn't exactly a deep, dark mystery to me...somewhere along the
line I had acquired the book from the movie classic "Erotic Hands"
and I'd been jerking off to that for quite a while. You might say
I was into the concept if not the reality.

Well, The Hothouse was everything I had been warned it was...humpy
dudes wandering around in body harnesses leading their slaves on
leashes, the whole trip. I nearly came when I walked into the
shower room hunkered down on a plastic hose while he sucked his
buddy's oversize cock. I checked out the sling rooms, but I spent
most of the night doing conventional if rougher-than-usual sex.

I fell asleep with my door cracked. The next morning I woke up
with this warm, wet feeling on my arm. I looked up and there was
this hairy, muscular little dude impaled on my arm to the elbow!
Holy shit! He looked down at me and grinned "Good morning" "Good
morning yourself fucker." " Can you dig it!" "For sure, but I've
never done it before" Well, that turned his motor on, and soon
became oblivious that he wasn't gonna dismount my arm until he had
showed me all the right moves. We ended up with me punch-fucking
him doggy--style with a cheering audience of six or seven
leathermen. Well, my arm was busy most of the morning, but my
asshole stayed virgin.

I sorta filed the experience away and chewed on it until my next
trip to the coast. I only knew one dude in Cincinnati that was
into handball, and we were friends, not fuck-buddies, so I didn't
get a chance to practice again until another job interview took me
to San Diego. The job panned out. and I moved to California.

Now, you have to understand where I was coming from. Cincinnati
is one of the most tight-assed Republican cities in the Midwest.
There was one gay bar and no baths. If you wanted steam you had
to drive to Cleveland, Toledo or Chicago. So the first couple of
years in San Diego I was like a kid in a candy shop...baths, bars,
and Balboa Park!

I fisted if I was asked, and if I was in a "top" mood I got off on
it to a certain extent, but something was missing. What that
"something" was I found out one night at the old Fourth Avenue
Baths in Hillcrest. I was cruising the "open" rooms and came
across this hot little blond surfer-type. We started getting it
on, and our hands both started to go for the ass about the same
time, so he called a halt to go fetch the Crisco and poppers. Now,
fisting wasn't particularly on my mind...I figured we'd trade fucks
and that would be that. How was I to know that gay surfers in San
Diego get into handball?

Well. pretty soon we were pretty busy finger-fucking each other
while we sixty-nined. Then he called a halt and sat up and looked
at me. "Wanna go further?" "As in what?" "Fisting, man." "You
or me?" "Whatever," he muttered. "Well, I've never had it, but
I'm up for trying." Bingo! The idea of a virgin really pushed his
button, so pretty soon I'm on my back with my ass propped up on a
pillow and him sitting cross-legged below me.

"Your head's gonna get it done for you" he told me. "You gotta
want me inside you. It's just like takin' a big cock. It'll hurt
like hell goin' over the widest part of my knuckles, but then once
it's inside you're gonna lose your mind!" Well, we had smoked a
couple of joints and I was pretty mellowed out and the dude wasn't
tryin' to hurry me. We rapped about all kinds of shit, but all the
time there was this gentle but insistent pressure at my asshole.
"How much you got in?" I'd ask him from time to time but he
wouldn't tell me. "Don't worry about it...just relax and enjoy."

I kept playin' with my cock and that made my ass tighten up, so he
pulled the laces from his boot and tied my hands behind my head so
I couldn't jack off. Now I don't usually do bondage with a
stranger, but we were really into each other's heads by now, and
I figured what the shit, my legs were still free to kick if he got
radical.

We kept on like this for about an hour...then he looked me in the
eye and said, "Pull your knees back to your tits." "is this it,
man? I'm not sure I'm ready." "You're ready...your fuckin' ass
is just beggin' for my hand. Cummon, pull 'em back." He got up
on his knees and started pushing my legs down with his chest until
his face was right over mine. "Common, man, take my fuckin' fist.
You can do it!" He shoved a popper under my nose and my ass caught
fire! One fiery bolt of pain and he was in! The fucker had his
goddamned fist up my butt. "Slow deep breaths, man...take slow,
deep breaths. Get used to it, then we'll play." Now I was leakin'
gum like a firehose by this point. I couldn't imagine it getting
any more intense/painful/better, but it did. He gave me a few
minutes to calm down, then he shoved the popper under my nose again
and started to make a fist inside me. "AAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGHHH! Take
it easy man!" "Just makin' the fist, dude. Now I'm gonna do a
little twistin'." "Well, he did a little twistin' and I did a lot
of twistin' and yellin', but he just kept at it, slow and steady.
I drifted into a semi-trance impaled on this hot little dude's
hand. Experienced bottoms say that there's a good deal of yoga and
meditation involved...now I understood what they meant.

He looked down at me and grinned. "REady for a little depth?"
"You're running this trip, man. You got me fuckin' tied up and
held down so I can't move anything but my eyelashes. Guess if you
wanna go for dept I'm gonna have to go along! "Fuckin'-A-right!
You just slide down on my arm fucker. We're gonna go for the
elbow!" Now, that might sound a little bit radical for the first
time, but once he'd gotten in past the knuckles it was a matter of
degree. Actually, his outstretched hand and forearm was easier to
take than the clenched rotating fist. "Can you sit up?" he asked
me after awhile. "If you help me" "I want you to see, man.
You've got my fuckin' arm up to the elbow!" I didn't believe him,
but he pulled me up until I was bent like a pretzel and I could see
my red, tautly-stretched asshole around the beginning of his
muscular bicep. "I gotta cum, man," I moaned. "I gotta cum so
fuckin' gad!" "Oh, yeah, shoot your fuckin' load! Cummon,
motherfucker, shoot it!!" He was givin' me long, slow strokes with
his arm...all the was out to the wrist and then all the way back
to the elbow! He grabbed my cock and it was all over. I must have
shot for five minutes! The first load landed on the wall over my
head. "YYYYEEEOOWWW! OK. OK, ease out, man,ease out! He slowly
withdrew his arm and we collapsed.

"Like it?" he grinned. "Like it! Jesus, I loved it! You have
great hands man." "You might be sore for a day or two." "That's
cool." "Wanna do me?" "As soon as I catch my breath." We
stretched out and dozed for awhile then I started to get itchy to
get into his ass. It only took him about half and hour...he was
experienced, but I have fairly big hands. He started to get a
little worried, though, when I started sneakin' a couple of extra
fingers up along side my hand. "Hey, uh, I don't think I can take
much more." "First time for everything, dude." I chuckled. "Yeah,
well, I guess, only go easy, man, OK?" "No problem...just relax
and enjoy." Well, about another fifteen minutes I was shakin'
hands with myself inside this dude's steaming hole, and it was his
turn to beg. "Oh Christ, let me cum, please! Jack me off, man.
I gotta cum!" Well, that presented a problem since both my hands
were busy, so I took his aching cock in my mouth. He arched his
back and his asshole tightened around my wrists until I thought
they were gonna break. He shot so hard I thought I was gonna
drown! "JJJJJEEEEESSSSSUUUUUSSS! Take it out...please take it
out!" I slowly pulled one hand after the other out of his
exhausted hole. We staggered to the showers and soaped each other
down, and then we crashed. We exchanged phone numbers and played
a couple of times after that, either at the baths or at the FFA
parties. I lost track of him, and the Fourth Avenue Baths closed
down, but I'll never forget him.

Re:Economics? (0)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 6 years ago | (#21109655)

"If you build it, NASA will not only come, it'll give you $2 million dollars for your troubles."

Is it just me, or does everyone get the feeling that NASA is run by dirty old men?

Re:Economics? (4, Informative)

Xeth (614132) | about 7 years ago | (#21107587)

For a full-scale thing? Probably. But this is a much easier challenge. From TFA:

There are two levels of difficulty, with awards for first and second place at each level. 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. Level 2, which is a more difficult course, 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.
I think this is really geared toward groups of students, and clever entrepreneurs.

Re:Economics? (3, Funny)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | about 7 years ago | (#21108963)

I'm sure the rules have something to disqualify it but a $100 model helicopter will do all the things described.

Re:Economics? (1)

kimvette (919543) | about 7 years ago | (#21109051)

I'm sure the rules have something to disqualify it


They sure do.

If we RTFA we will note:

To win the prize, teams must demonstrate a rocket-propelled [emphasis mine. -Kim] 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.


If we RTFS we will note:

To win the prize, teams must demonstrate a rocket-propelled [emphasis mine. -Kim] vehicle and payload that takes off vertically


So yeah, a model helicopter need not apply. Besides, a $100 RC helicopter can barely carry a micro-camera, battery, and video transmitter, let alone the kind of payload NASA wants.

Why "rocket-propelled"? (1)

mi (197448) | about 7 years ago | (#21109333)

Granted, a helicopter would not work on the airless Moon. Granted, a wheeled (or caterpillared) rover may not be suitable for large distances either.

But there may be other designs. For example, the macropods [wikipedia.org] are able to hop over long distances using relatively little energy. The tendons in their large (macro) legs (pods) act as springs allowing them to reuse about 70% of the energy for the next jump (humans only reuse 5-10% on each step).

I suppose, a vehicle could be built to use the same principle [wikipedia.org] . It may not work well on Earth (due to the remaining limitations of our technology), but on Moon, with its 5 times lesser gravity, jumping should be quite efficient...

Re:Why "rocket-propelled"? (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about 7 years ago | (#21109513)

For example, the macropods are able to hop over long distances using relatively little energy.

Moon kangaroos.

I like the way you're thinking...

Re:Why "rocket-propelled"? (1)

mi (197448) | more than 6 years ago | (#21109719)

Moon kangaroos.

Yep. The only thing more endearing would be "Moon wallabies [wikipedia.org] ".

Re:Economics? (3, Funny)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 7 years ago | (#21109081)

Yeah, the rules specifically state that it has to be entirely rocket-powered.

A.4.2 Vehicle must take-off vertically utilizing only rocket power from Point A. No aerodynamic or air-breathing methods of hovering, propulsion, steering, or landing are permitted except in the case of abort.

Sucks, as I didn't see that until I'd already built a lander with repulsorlifts.

Re:Economics? (0)

Skrapion (955066) | about 7 years ago | (#21109085)

I can only assume they'll be required to carry a certain amount of weight, but the details haven't been released yet [nasa.gov] .

Re:Economics? (2, Insightful)

servognome (738846) | about 7 years ago | (#21107915)

The thing I always wondered about these kinds of contests, like the x prize, is doesn't it cost more to build your craft than you win?
But if you win you are the leader for any big money contracts that follow.

Re:Economics? (2, Funny)

iminplaya (723125) | about 7 years ago | (#21108473)

If you win, your project will probably be hijacked by the lowest bidder that actually wins the contract.

Re:Economics? (4, Informative)

RedWizzard (192002) | about 7 years ago | (#21107987)

The thing I always wondered about these kinds of contests, like the x prize, is doesn't it cost more to build your craft than you win?
These sorts of prizes are not intended to be money making schemes for the competitors. They are intended to offset development costs for technology that has value in its own right. For example Scaled Composites did not spend $20M or whatever to win the X Prize in 2004, they were developing a commercial venture that happened to be close to the X Prize requirements. Similarly Armadillo Aerospace are not building rockets just to compete in the LLC, rather the LLC happens to be something they can compete in without radically altering the direction of the development they were already doing. Though if they won both levels they would recoup the majority of their costs.

Cement Truck (3, Funny)

WED Fan (911325) | about 7 years ago | (#21108411)

I think I could do it, using the tumbler from a cement truck and some off the shelf hardware.

Re:Economics? (2, Informative)

Skrapion (955066) | about 7 years ago | (#21109053)

Actually, this isn't like the X Prize, this is the X Prize. It's part of the Google Lunar X Prize [googlelunarxprize.org] , which, as the name implies, is in being offered by Google and the X Prize Foundation.

NASA? (1)

initialE (758110) | about 7 years ago | (#21107549)

NASA will not only come

Too... Easy...

America is dying (5, Insightful)

megaditto (982598) | about 7 years ago | (#21108191)

$2M for a working rocket spaceship
$2B for a half-assed video hosting site Youtube

I am the only one saddened by this?

Re:America is dying (5, Insightful)

Plutonite (999141) | about 7 years ago | (#21108443)

No, you missed the big news:

15B for a "social-networking" website where people can "poke" each other and buy each other little gifts that are pictures of teddy bears and ducks.

Re:America is dying (1)

nova_ostrich (774466) | about 7 years ago | (#21109537)

Putting it that way makes it sound a lot like a deal where one must sign in blood.

Re:America is dying (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21108501)

You're just not seeing the marketability

Amused to Death (1)

scarboni888 (1122993) | about 7 years ago | (#21108767)

I guess it's all about priorities. It's touchy-feel-good to watch ourselves on tv & oh-so enchanting. The hours of self-amusement keeps us out of trouble, you know?

Re:America is dying (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 7 years ago | (#21109293)

I'm not, as it's a weird comparison. One is a prize for completing a project, the other is the worth of a company. One involves repeating what Robert Goddard was doing 75 years ago (with a grant equivalent to $60000 in 2007 dollars) in slightly larger scale with a modern control system. The other involves streaming ten million videos a day all over the planet.

Next up: The world isn't fair, as my house is worth less than the salaries of all McDonalds employees put together.

Re:America is dying (1)

RobBebop (947356) | about 7 years ago | (#21109321)

$2M for a working rocket spaceship $2B for a half-assed video hosting site Youtube I am the only one saddened by this?

I feel the same, but for a different reason. A Hummer that could drive 70 miles autonomously was worth $1 or 2 million. Landing a rocket on the Moon has GOT to pull in at least 8-figures. NASA/DARPA/Science is getting cheap these days.

Not so bad (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 7 years ago | (#21109453)

Don't be so negative. Given a choice, I would pay $2 million for a working spaceship and let some idiot pay $2 billion for a website any day. That's a hell of a lot better than the other way around!

Re:America is dying (1, Offtopic)

FallOfDay (1053148) | about 7 years ago | (#21109503)

You're not the only one saddened by this; I am too, & I'm not even an American.

I'm wondering how many punches America will have to take before the country stands up, contains itself (instead of lashing out with another war), & reminds the world that twelve moonwalkers, a load of test pilots & guys like Art Arfons & Joe Kittinger are where the real business-end of that Big Frontier is. This is still a part of the American heritage & mindset, & doesn't deserve to go under.

$2m is a good prize, for a backyard fellow of the Arfons mindset, if such a guy would decide to give it a shot. After all, a lander is old tech, now, & should be reverse engineerable, to some degree, quite cheaply. Remember that they're not after a full LEM, but just the technology for testing the lander on planet Earth. NASA would possibly be interested in giving such a person, who comes up with the goods, a pretty solid engineering job/contract, also; for the duration of the Constellation Program (i.e. A long time). After all, the winner would know exactly how to build & rebuild it, & probably even to land the thing.

Step one: Reverse engineer everything that can be found out about the 'Flying Bedstead'. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LLRV [wikipedia.org]

Re:NASA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21108381)

Fine, I'll do it.

It's a $2 million dollar moneyshot.

Great! (0, Troll)

Xeth (614132) | about 7 years ago | (#21107561)

Maybe next they can provide a $2000 prize for climbing Mount Everest?* *Note: must supply own climbing tools, tents, fuel, oxygen, clothes, and sherpas

Come on Armadillo!!!! (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21107573)

I haven't been paying attention much to other groups, but Armadillo Aerospace is already very close to meeting that mission profile.

Re:Come on Armadillo!!!! (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 7 years ago | (#21108039)

Armadillo Aerospace is already very close to meeting that mission profile.

And I'll bet they've spent a lot more than 2 million. NASA may end up paying out on this, but it will be to an existing established aerospace company that has already spent much more than 2 mil.

Re:Come on Armadillo!!!! (3, Interesting)

DoktorFaust (564453) | about 7 years ago | (#21108295)

To answer your questions -- apparently Armadillo will be the only team competing this year [livescience.com] . According to last year's wrap up [armadilloaerospace.com] they spent "...six months and about a quarter million dollars in direct pursuit of this...". Of course, more money has been spent since then, but even if they quadrupled the amount they spent, they'd still come out way ahead.

Re:Come on Armadillo!!!! (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 7 years ago | (#21108557)

they spent "...six months and about a quarter million dollars in direct pursuit of this..."
Yes they did. But they haven't won yet, they have no lander. I'm saying it can't be done for anywhere near 2 mil.

They already have met the level 1. (0, Redundant)

pavon (30274) | about 7 years ago | (#21108437)

There are two levels in the cup, and armadillo has already flown [armadilloaerospace.com] the profile of the level 1 flight at Oklahoma space port. They just have to repeat it at the cup to claim the $350k, but they are doing it with a smaller craft, so that they can enter their larger craft in the level 2.

It's too bad none of the other team are going to give it a go this year. Some of them looked like they might just pull off the level 1 profile. Much less suspenseful this way :P

kidding, kidding (4, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | about 7 years ago | (#21107593)

The space agency today said it will offer $2 million in prizes if competing teams can successfully build a lunar lander

Do they give you a bonus for also constructing a sound stage that looks like a lunar surface?

Actually... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21108337)

IIRC, there is indeed a bounty on producing an accurate enough representation of lunar regolith. Of course, it doesn't have to *look* like the moon, but it has to *act* like the moon.

i've got a bad feeling about this. (1)

User 956 (568564) | more than 6 years ago | (#21109561)

IIRC, there is indeed a bounty on producing an accurate enough representation of lunar regolith. Of course, it doesn't have to *look* like the moon, but it has to *act* like the moon.

That's no moon.

Re:kidding, kidding (1)

ifchairscouldtalk (1031944) | about 7 years ago | (#21109253)

No. That they have already.

Significantly different? (1, Interesting)

FalconZero (607567) | about 7 years ago | (#21107599)

Surely the mechanics of the device would be significantly different on the moon vs. on Earth?
Surely the enormous difference in atmospheric pressure and gravity mean the only thing that's reasonably useful is the guidance mechanism?

Any rocket scientists out there have any idea what the real benefit of the challenge is?

Re:Significantly different? (1)

427_ci_505 (1009677) | about 7 years ago | (#21107641)

pfft, just multiply every occurence of g by 1/6. Also set every air resistance constant to 0.

I keed, I keed.

Re:Significantly different? (2, Insightful)

SamP2 (1097897) | about 7 years ago | (#21107667)

Agree to that. The 6x gravity on Earth vs moon, as well as all ballistic and overheating problems associated with the atmosphere, would not be present on the moon. For other issues it's vice versa, like requiring a completely airtight compartment for lunar landing and withstanding the pressure difference (BTW, due to properties of material resistance, building a vessel that has internal pressure higher than external (spaceship, lander) is MUCH tougher than a vessel with external pressure higher than internal (submarine).

The lunar lander used in the Apollo programs would never be able to perform a landing on Earth. And building an Earth lander for use on the moon would grossly inflate your fuel use compared to what you need, increasing the lander's weight and worsening consequences of a potential fuel leak/ignition.

The difference in conditions is not trivial at all, it is different to the point where the resources required to build such a "vessel" exceed the transferable benefit.

Oh, and the $2M prize for any kind lunar lander prototype is a joke. Try $200M.

Re:Significantly different? (4, Informative)

peragrin (659227) | about 7 years ago | (#21108003)

ah but that is the point. without having to deal with air resistance, and only 1/6 the gravity if you can go 150 feet up on earth you can easily go 1000 feet away from the moon. You also need that increase in fuel as one would be trying to reach lunar orbit. which because of the amazing 1/6 gravity difference is a heck of a lot easier.

So any vessel that could survive in earth's atmosphere doing such tests would be already 75% done for lunar module.

Also the company that does it will most likely win the $2 billion dollar contract to build the lunar module for the government. or at least $100 million dollar help us get started fee.

Re:Significantly different? (1)

Frequency Domain (601421) | about 7 years ago | (#21108335)

If that's the point, I don't get it. It means the engine has to be way over-engineered relative to what's needed for the moon, with huge mass penalties, which boost the fuel requirements, which boost the mass even more... It would almost make more sense to me if they permitted you to use floatation to offset 5/6 of the weight.

Re:Significantly different? (2, Insightful)

Orange Crush (934731) | about 7 years ago | (#21108761)

Wouldn't overheating be an even bigger problem on the moon? There's no atmosphere to conduct/convect away waste heat.

Re:Significantly different? (4, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | about 7 years ago | (#21107809)

Any rocket scientists out there have any idea what the real benefit of the challenge is?
IINARS. But, I can think of why this would be beneficial. If you can meet the challenge here on Earth, and you can do it for round-bouts $2 million, then you have figured out how to do a complex task very cheaply. NASA won't be sending a slightly-modified version of your lander to the moon, but they may well come away with some cost-saving ideas.

And then there's the whole fun of it.

Re:Significantly different? (1)

QuantumRiff (120817) | about 7 years ago | (#21108851)

I really should not have gone into CS for college. I can't tell you the number of times someone has started something by saying "Well, I'm not a rocket scientist, but..." where I would abso-frickin-lootley love to be able to break into their conversation and say "Well, I AM!"

Re:Significantly different? (1)

e9th (652576) | about 7 years ago | (#21107971)

I can see one significant difference:

...competing teams have the option to refuel their vehicle before conducting the required return level to the original starting point.

Re:Significantly different? (2, Informative)

camperdave (969942) | about 7 years ago | (#21108091)

The more difficult course, Level 2, requires the rocket to hover for twice as long before landing precisely on a simulated lunar surface, packed with craters and boulders to mimic actual lunar terrain. The hover times are calculated so that the Level 2 mission closely simulates the power needed to perform the real lunar mission.http://space.xprize.org/lunar-lander-challenge/ [xprize.org]

Re:Significantly different? (1)

lexarius (560925) | about 7 years ago | (#21108173)

At the last minute, NASA will announce that the launch site is somewhere in Texas, and the fixed landing site for the test will be in the Sea of Tranquility. Teams are, as mentioned in the rules, welcome to refuel their craft before the return trip if they like, of course. I think this would be a good test of the robustness of their solutions ;)

Flight profiles worked out accordingly (1)

Goonie (8651) | about 7 years ago | (#21109181)

Funnily enough, people have thought of that. The requirements of the level 2 challenge is roughly akin to what they'd actually need to land on the moon for real. One of the major novelties is the requirement for repeated flights; as far as I know no space mission has ever really achieved that kind of turnaround.

In some ways, it's probably tougher on Earth, because you don't have the wind to deal with on the moon.

I'm in (1)

onion_joe (625886) | about 7 years ago | (#21107601)

Who's with me? All we need is some VC and a marketing wonk to bring in the VC.

/not joking

We fought that battle already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21108155)

And the VC [wikipedia.org] kicked our asses. Let sleeping dogs lie, okay?

Re:I'm in (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21109237)

lazy

CHA (4, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | about 7 years ago | (#21107629)

Nevermind the lander... Given that Microsoft paid $240 million for 1% of facebook, how long until someone offers a milti-million dollar prize to build a laser that can carve their corporate logo into the surface of the moon?

Re:CHA (2, Funny)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | about 7 years ago | (#21107829)

I was just thinking a Ballmer flying chair could win this prize.

Of course, we'd have to ship Ballmer to the moon, but that would be an easy problem to solve.

Re:CHA (1)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | more than 6 years ago | (#21109605)

Ballmer to the moon, but that would be an easy problem to solve.

Ballmer's hot air could get him at least to the upper atmosphere.

He is so full of shit he could prolly light his farts and make it the rest of the way....

Where's the X prize for this? (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 7 years ago | (#21107645)

We've seen the X prize for private space travel, so why isn't there an X prize for the lunar lander? Or is the X foundation saying they think it's already been done and hence not really in need of a monetary prize for doing it again?

Re:Where's the X prize for this? (1)

oenone.ablaze (1133385) | about 7 years ago | (#21107821)

First things first--there's also a $50M prize [space.com] out for building a spacecraft that can take 5 people into orbit.

Re:Where's the X prize for this? (1)

RedWizzard (192002) | about 7 years ago | (#21107919)

If you read TFA you'd know that "the Lunar challenge is part of the 2007 WireFly X Prize Cup event at Holloman."

We have a winner! (4, Funny)

r00b (923145) | about 7 years ago | (#21107669)

I just copied the actual lunar lander, and added this cool racing stripe.

Re:We have a winner! (3, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 7 years ago | (#21108927)

I just copied the actual lunar lander, and added this cool racing stripe.

You do realize that you could hook that up to the Internet and patent the whole thing?

China and Japan are already there (0, Flamebait)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 7 years ago | (#21107735)

If you build it, NASA will not only come, it'll give you $2 million dollars for you troubles. The space agency today said it will offer $2 million in prizes if competing teams can successfully build a lunar lander at the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge at Holloman Air Force Base, in Alamogordo, N.M. Oct. 27 and 28th.

Will they let the chinese [guardian.co.uk] show up? Or maybe the Japanese [space.com] ?

And will they get extra credit for video/photo/3D telemetry? How about spectrography gear and other testing equipment? Because they've got all that. On the way to the moon or already there.

I'm so tired of my tax dollars being wasted on international dick-waving contests like this. I wish NASA et al would just whip out the rulers- it'd be cheaper. Then again, it wouldn't feed the defense contractors, now would it?

Re:China and Japan are already there (4, Insightful)

RedWizzard (192002) | about 7 years ago | (#21108085)

Will they let the chinese show up? Or maybe the Japanese?
Those are orbiters, not landing modules, so no. Anyway the Lunar Lander Challenge has nothing to do with sending anything to the moon. Rather it requires the ability to fly a particular (VTOL) flight profile and quick turnaround times. It's aimed at getting private developers to develop technology that none of the world's governments seem to be working on (i.e. quick turnaround).

I'm so tired of my tax dollars being wasted on international dick-waving contests like this. I wish NASA et al would just whip out the rulers- it'd be cheaper. Then again, it wouldn't feed the defense contractors, now would it?
I'm tired of people making uninformed comments about stories they clearly haven't even read and still getting modded up for it. We don't always get what we want.

Re:China and Japan are already there (1)

Seumas (6865) | about 7 years ago | (#21108117)

Yeah, good point. If China is already in space, why should we bother? We'll just let them have space. Who needs space exploration, anyway? That couldn't ever possibly benefit mankind or anything.

Re:China and Japan are already there (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | about 7 years ago | (#21108309)

Will they let the chinese show up? Or maybe the Japanese?

FYI, the Chinese and Japanese craft (while cool) are orbiting lunar probes, not landers. The Chinese are eventually planning on doing a lunar lander, but that won't be until 2012 at the earliest.

Re:China and Japan are already there (3, Insightful)

Uberminky (122220) | about 7 years ago | (#21108317)

We're all entitled to our opinions about how NASA is running their show, but even still, I have to disagree with your post.

From what I saw on those links you pointed out, those projects have very different goals from the lunar lander challenge. In both cases (as far as the articles made clear) the respective countries were running state-sponsored (not privately funded) programs to get their gadgets into orbit around the moon to take measurements, test out equipment, etc, without ever touching down. The lunar lander challenge, on the other hand, isn't really about the moon part, so much as the lander part (hell, the challenge takes place on earth). My understanding is that it is geared towards developing privately funded solutions capable of performing a task roughly equivalent to what a helicopter can do (vertical takeoff, controlled flight, vertical landing), but without an atmosphere. It's not nearly as much of a marvel as putting a probe in orbit and mapping out a planet (or moon), as NASA has already done (though maybe not to the degree that these new projects plan to), but it's privately funded, and I believe it is done in the name of making future trips to other planets cheaper. NASA's $2M prize is nothing compared to what the various companies could (and probably already have) shell out, so in fact this is actually a money-saver for NASA. If/when we have any sort of permanent setup on the moon, whether it is a colony of humans or an automated ore-extracting plant, or whatever, we will need this capability. Sure, we have it (NASA has done it, and with people onboard to boot), but the basement designers will, out of necessity, find ways to do it that are cheaper, requiring less-exotic materials, less human interaction, etc. These groups will explore the problem space in a way more akin to how the Russians developed much of their space technology (fly it until it breaks, redesign until it flies again, rinse, repeat... which resulted in some pretty bulletproof systems).

Opinions about NASA aside, I would personally like to see us build colonies off of this planet. Maybe we've got plenty of time left on this one, maybe not, but we don't really know, and I would love to visit the moon one day. And if I can develop something in my basement that makes that more affordable for the next generation, I'm gonna give it a try.

Re:China and Japan are already there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21108751)

Uh, no... because those are lunar orbiters, not landers, which is what the contest is about. So no cigar.

OTOH, if there are any Japanese or Chinese nationals wanting to throw something together in the next, oh, 24 hours... have at it! The more the merrier. But really, this stuff is old news... the title and timing of this article are way off. This was announced, what, two years ago? I'm sure that if any Chinese or Japanese teams had wanted to compete, they would have been welcome. If only they could figure out a way to get their precious "rocket fuels" through airport security in 4 oz. bottles. Ha. HA-HA. BWWAAAHHAAAAAHAAAAA!!!!

Re:China and Japan are already there (1)

jc42 (318812) | about 7 years ago | (#21108811)

Will they let the chinese show up? Or maybe the Japanese?

Well, it'll pretty much have to be done outside the US, now that anyone in the country playing around with amateur rocketry is automatically classified as a ("suspected") terrorist and sent off to some other country for "interrogation". But it doesn't have to be Chinese or Japanese; it could be Canadians or Mexicans. (Or maybe Iraqis or Iranians. ;-)

Long island companies should try (1)

majortom1981 (949402) | about 7 years ago | (#21107767)

A company from long island should try. The cradle of aviation museum has one of the original landers. It was going to be used on one of the missions that got cancelled. That would be a great recource in building another one. (Long Island was home to grumman before they went under and got bought by northrop)

Now we all know (0, Offtopic)

SamP2 (1097897) | about 7 years ago | (#21107825)

That Facebook is worth [slashdot.org] 750 lunar landers.

Re:Now we all know (math wrong) (1)

SamP2 (1097897) | about 7 years ago | (#21107843)

Should be 7,500 lunar landers. :-) Moreover, each one should be designed from scratch.

Lets play catch (1)

RobDollar (1137885) | about 7 years ago | (#21107889)

I think this loosly describes throwing a ball twice upwards and catching it, as long as you can do it in a predictable way.

Re:Lets play catch (1)

servognome (738846) | about 7 years ago | (#21107943)

I think this loosly describes throwing a ball twice upwards and catching it, as long as you can do it in a predictable way.
Or in other terms, rocket propelled juggling

Prior art (2, Funny)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 7 years ago | (#21107903)

...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 predetermined time, fly for a certain amount of time and then land back on its original launch pad.
Er, don't helicopters do this? Grow the moon an atmosphere (Anybody see the movie Red Planet?) and it'll fly there too.

Re:Prior art (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 7 years ago | (#21108273)

From the rules:No aerodynamic or air-breathing methods of hovering, propulsion, steering, or landing is permitted except in the case of abort.

Been there, done that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21107911)

DC-X [wikipedia.org]

Re:Been there, done that. (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | about 7 years ago | (#21108777)

Been there, done that... 60 million dollars and several hundred people [islandone.org] . Meanwhile, Armadillo has done it for a couple of million (at most), and seven volunteers working two days a week.

Nasa? (-1, Offtopic)

nitro316 (1179211) | about 7 years ago | (#21107923)

I understand giving money to Universities, Scientist, Etc. but has anyone wondered why NASA needs private people to build and design a lunar lander for a mission a few years away? Shouldn't NASA who landed on the "Moon" in 1969 already have working designs for effective lunar landers? Seems to me that the 1960's death traps from the Apollo missions were proof that the overpaid under worked NASA scientists would be able to design (if they haven't already) a lunar lander. I am not a conspiracy theorist but is this further proof that NASA never landed on the moon?

In other words (1)

microbee (682094) | about 7 years ago | (#21107985)

NASA is now outsourcing its jobs.

Perhaps they're doing it right (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | about 7 years ago | (#21108079)

NASA is an Admininstration, filled with administrators. It says so right in their name. They should not be doing actual engineering (they are not called NASE). Instead they should be providing an administrative service that supports aerospace development.

Trying the X-prize model might be just the right way to tackle this.

Re:In other words (1)

jmcharry (608079) | about 7 years ago | (#21108147)

Haven't they always? Other than the rocket fodder, supplied largely by the military, most of the heavy lifting has been done by contractors.

Time to boldly go... (2, Interesting)

Pausanias (681077) | about 7 years ago | (#21108111)

where we already went 40 years ago with computers that would be 0wned by a calculator today. Way to go firing up the imaginations of the next generation of space scientists, NASA.

Re:Time to boldly go... (1)

Trogre (513942) | about 7 years ago | (#21108667)

Well, it was a difficult problem 40 years ago and it still is today.

That's so 1969... (4, Insightful)

tinrobot (314936) | about 7 years ago | (#21108163)

It makes me sad that almost 40 years later, they have to reinvent the technology from scratch.

We should be competing for a Mars lander by now.

They have to. (2, Insightful)

freeze128 (544774) | about 7 years ago | (#21109473)

The original designers of all that equipment have either retired or died. The manufacturing methods were too slow anyway. It's also possible that some of the components may have even become outlawed because of environmental concerns (lead solder or maybe some really toxic fuels). Does the lander HAVE to be wrapped in gold foil like the LEM? I have heard that the price of copper is going through the roof. It just makes sense to completely re-invent the technology, and start fresh.

I'm not worried about the technology, it's the implementation and deployment that bothers me. Why bother to design a lander that runs off of sunlight and generates its own oxygen from waste products when it's going to be launched by people who can't tell the difference between yards and meters? It might not even make it to the moon. Those knuckleheads will probably send it towards Omicron Persei 8.

Mission accomplished (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | about 7 years ago | (#21108235)

NASA must have their heads in the sand, because the private sector has already accomplished said task [frontiernet.net] .

Important Clue for the Mystified (3, Interesting)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | about 7 years ago | (#21108281)

For all those who're whining about issues such as
  • difference in gravity between moon and earth
  • atmosphere here, none there
  • etc
Remember that there's recently been *much* talk about actual landings on planetary bodies other than the moon (mars, anyone) where variable factors mentioned above will still be a consideration, but "simply" (for want of a better term) different values for the same problem.

For those who're reading slashdot while still mostly asleep/inebriated/high .... If you can do this on earth (and accomodate the inherently *non-trivial* issues from relatively large gravity and atmosphere) then tweaking the solution to work for select random() from "moon,mars,??" is a significantly less complex problem.

If you don't know how to build a car, building a world-land-speed-record-breaking car is *very difficult*, if you regularly design and build performance cars for a living, it is a significantly less complex problem.

How many years did it take men to build a working powered flying machine? How many years *after* that before they tweaked the design for
  • Passenger flights
  • supersonic flights
  • heavy lifting caro capacity
  • remote-controlled flight
  • etc
Seems Nasa has realized that being an overbloated government controlled bureaucracy is not necessarily conducive to rocket-science/heavy-engineering/economically-optimal-solutions (ie stuff they are supposed to be achieving).

Perhaps now NASA will focus more on hard-science and rely on commercial enterprise to handle issues like basic-engineering and economical solutions.

Government science projects should not be expected/required to be economically viable/turn a profit - their research is for the generic betterment of mankind and should be available to all. Commercial interests should not be relied upon (certainly not exclusively) to carry out the brunt of core scientific research - much scientific research is *exceedingly* expensive with no obvious expectation of Return On Investment (the space program has "struck it lucky" with many useful and commercial inventions as a result, but nobody said "lets put a man on the moon because we need to invent microwave ovens").

If only we could convince *all* world governments to use 90% of their military budget for scientific research. Wars could be prosecuted with personal combat (trial by arms) and we'd have cured cancer/aids/parkinsons/the-common-cold years ago.

3 days notice, nice trick (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21108345)

I'm sure it was on a NASA or Ames site somewhere, including the rules. But what's the point of writing about it 3 days before the event? Surely it will be a more interesting story to read about the winners and their methods.

i.e. ass lander (1)

andreyvul (1176115) | about 7 years ago | (#21108459)

lunar means moon
moon means ass (noun-to-verb casting)
therefore, it is a $2 million prize for ass lander
well then, ejection seat companies now have another $2 million in their pocket.

What? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 7 years ago | (#21108469)

ONLY $2 million? You've got to be joking.

The amazing thing (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 7 years ago | (#21108525)

is that NASA, like the DOD, heavily overpays the industry, but will then go real cheap on these prizes. It is 2 million for a lunar lander, while Google offers 30 million for a lunar rover (which is NOT that much past a rover).

More Appealing (1)

das_magpie (1149995) | about 7 years ago | (#21108537)

I think this contest would be much more appealing if some members of the team who created it actually got to use it on the moon.

Previous Design? (1)

blantonl (784786) | about 7 years ago | (#21108631)

Is there any reason why the previous design won't "work"? Seems like we've done the before at some point.

Re:Previous Design? (2, Funny)

mrbcs (737902) | about 7 years ago | (#21108731)

They made it too big to fit through the studio doors :-)

USA went to the moon 38 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21109143)

Today, China launches an orbiting module to circle the moon, Japan launched one a few months ago and India is next. Good for them.

  38 years ago, the USA had men ON THE FRIGGIN MOON.

I'm sorry NASA.... I disagree and ask what the heck are you doing? Where is the drive and passion and CREATIVITY (with lack of govenment funding) to make America proud to get things done?

Is throwing money and bodies going to fix the problem. NO! USE YOUR MINDS and GET CREATIVE LIKE YOUR/OUR PARENTS DID IN 1964-1969!

Man, people are so lazy and want a free lunch nowadays.

Kids, get off my lawn.

Only $2 million? (1)

iced_tea (588173) | about 7 years ago | (#21109167)

NASA will not only come, it'll give you $2 million dollars for your troubles.
Oh come on what am I some kind of High priced hooker??!!!

Oh well, not a bad sum though. This approach has proven to work well with other contest's like DARPA's Grand Challenge [wikipedia.org] .

Why (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#21109191)

does this story have little or nothing to do with the moon? Is it just a way to give away $2M? And why is this story from a site called "NetworkWorld"?

outsource because THEY can't (2)

Friar_MJK (814134) | more than 6 years ago | (#21109663)

Has anyone thought that the reason why they're outsourcing this research is the fact that they simply do not know it in the first place? To me I'd say we've never been to the moon, and the U.S.'s space agencie(s) (NASA) couldn't get itself on that rock if it tried (at the current moment at least), so they're getting people thinking "Well it mustn't be that hard if we've done this before (as a country) so let's give it a go." Sadly paints the picture of NASA not having enough citizen support to be able to get the proper cash from the feds to fund all those new technologies we'll be needing as a species to survive, so it has to resort to those private parties that are already interested in the subject/research to do it's dirty work for it.

more news that makes me go "we're doomed"
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