October 27, 2008

$350,000 Lunar Challenge Winner Announced

The U.S. space agency says Armadillo Aerospace of Rockwall, Texas, has won $350,000 in prize money in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge.

The challenge is a two-level, $2 million competition sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, designed to accelerate commercial space technology.

Armadillo's $350,000 first-place win for level one this year, leaves $1.65 million available in prize money for future competitions, officials said

"Armadillo's winning vehicle successfully demonstrated some of the technologies needed for a lunar lander capable of ferrying payloads or humans back and forth between lunar orbit and the lunar surface," NASA said in a statement. "During the first day of competition at Las Cruces International Airport (Friday), the vehicle rose to a height of 50 meters (164 feet), translated to a landing pad 100 meters (328 feet) away while staying aloft for at least 90 seconds. It landed safely and later repeated the flight."

Armadillo also attempted to claim the $1 million first-place prize for Level 2 with a larger vehicle designed to stay aloft for twice as long and land on simulated lunar terrain with craters and rocks, but the demonstration was not successful, NASA said.