Great hovering armadillos!

Great hovering armadillos!

Great hovering armadillos!

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
June 5 2007 10:37 AM

Great hovering armadillos!

One of the coolest things NASA has done is to set up the Centennial Challenges. These are a series of challenges to excite and inspire private industry to develop technology that NASA needs. For example, there's one to develop a good spacesuit glove, and another to create a car for the Space Elevator.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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A big challenge is to develop a vehicle capable of landing on the Moon and taking off again... and again and again. It was done once before... but we can do better now. The Lunar Lander Challenge set up by NASA is formidable:

The complete Lunar Lander Challenge purse of $2,000,000 is divided into two levels: Level One, worth a total of $500,000, and Level Two, worth a total of $1,500,000. To win prize money in either level, a rocket-propelled vehicle with an assigned payload must take-off vertically, climb to a defined altitude, fly for a pre-determined amount of time, then land vertically on a target that is a fixed distance from the take-off point. After remaining at this location for a period of time, the vehicle must take-off, fly for the same amount of time, and land again on its original launch pad.

There are different teams competing for this prize, but one, Armadillo Aerospace, is ahead of the pack. They have already accomplished the challenge task! They haven't actually won yet, because the official contest will be held at a specific time (later this year), but on June 2 the company successfully tested their lander, named Widget.

Totally cool.