Masten Qualifies for Level Two of Lunar Landing Challenge; Armadillo Objects

Masten Qualifies for Level Two of Lunar Landing Challenge; Armadillo Objects

Masten Space Systems qualified for the Level Two prize of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Landing Challenge. The prize is administered for NASA by the X-prize Foundation. There are prizes for Level One (First Place, $350,00; Second Place, $150,000), and Level Two (First Place, $1 million; Second Place, $500,000).

Masten’s successful flight on the third try overcame problems on two previous days that included a small fire. Masten qualified for the $150,000 Level One Second Place prize earlier in the month. The First Place Level One prize was won by Armadillo Aerospace last year.

Judges allowed Masten a third day instead of the two that are normally permitted, a decision that prompted a protest from Armadillo Aerospace. Armadillo qualified for the Level Two prize in September. The decision on who will be awarded first or second place is based on landing accuracy and apparently Masten did better on that score. Thus, Masten could win the first place $1 million prize and Armadillo would be awarded $500,000 for second place, a half million dollar difference.

In a press release posted on SpaceRef but not yet on Armadillo’s website, Armadillo Founder John Carmack challenged the decision to allow Masten a third attempt, but also admitted that he should have insisted on improving the accuracy of his own rocket: “I have been kicking myself for not taking the competition more seriously and working on a better landing accuracy.” But he stressed that “the current situation, where Masten was allowed a third active day of competition, after trying and failing on both scheduled days, is different. … 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.”

Another team, Unreasonable Rocket, did not qualify. A fourth team, BonNovA, withdrew.

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