Unreasonable Rocket Ends Quest for Lunar Lander Prize

Reports out of Cantil indicate that Unreasonable Rocket has ended its quest to win the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. During a test flight using a crane and tether, Unreasonable’s Silver Ball lander oscillated, broke the tether, and fell back onto the launch pad on its side. A leg punctured the fuel tank, damaging the vehicle and preventing another flight attempt on the last day of the competition.

The end of Unreasonable’s effort brings the NASA sponsored contest to an end and means a big payday for Masten Space Systems, which won the $1 million first prize for Level 2 and $150,000 for finishing second in Level 1. Armadillo Aerospace will be awarded $500,000 for a second place finish in Level 2. Last year, Armdillo won $350,000 for winning first prize in Level 1.

Masten and Armadillo were the only companies to qualify for the prizes. Their lunar lander vehicles completed round trips between two landing pads.

Masten’s victory in Level 2 is controversial because the company was originally given two days to complete flights for this part of the competition. The company failed on both days, but it successfully petitioned the judges to be given another flight on a third day. Masten’s vehicle succeed, landing closer to center of the pads to edge out Armadillo for first prize.

Armadillo founder John Carmack has called the decision a “mistake” and said that he feels he was “robbed” of half a million dollars. Armadillo completed its flights over a two-day period in September.

Will Pomerantz, who oversees the competition for the X Prize Foundation, has defended the decision as being within the rules.  NASA put up $2 million in prize money for the challenge, which was managed by the non-profit X Prize Foundation.