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Draft Rules for X Prize Lunar Lander Challenge 175

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the little-tougher-this-time dept.
IZ Reloaded writes "X Prize Foundation is asking the public to comment on the draft rules set for its lunar lander challenge. From Space.com: According to draft rules for the lunar lander contest, competitors will be challenged to build a vehicle capable of launching vertically, travel a distance of 328 to 656 feet (100 to 200 meters) horizontally, and then land at a designated site. A return trip would then occur between 5 minutes and 30 minutes later...Comments are sought by March 1 with initial sign-ups slated for May 15, according to draft rules, though Murphy added that the comment period could be extended to 30 days."
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Draft Rules for X Prize Lunar Lander Challenge

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  • Mythbusters (Score:4, Funny)

    by iCharles (242580) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @04:41PM (#14788125) Homepage
    Somehow, I think the Mythbusters will crank out an entry with the stuff around the shop...
    • Re:Mythbusters (Score:2, Informative)

      by natedubbya (645990)
      They had an episode where they tried to make a single-person jetpack, not too dissimilar from this, only on a smaller scale. It didn't go over too well, but they got close!

      Episode 32: Jet Pack
      In this "twin-taled" episode, Adam and Jamie embark on the longest and most ambitious build they've ever undertaken: creating their own personal flying machine from scratch. Are these machines as magnificent as their designers claim? To make the project more realistic, the two limit themselves to a build period of

    • Jamie designs a PVC and transcan airframe

      Adam investigates the nutritional qualities of frozen chicken

      Kari knits up some spacesuits

      Grant checks to see how long he can hold his breath (Sorry, Grant)

      Tory scours the neighborhood for 2L bottles

      Yeah, I could see that
  • by FrontalLobe (897758) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @04:43PM (#14788152)
    Practice/simulations here [thepcmanwebsite.com]
  • by temojen (678985) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @04:46PM (#14788174) Journal
  • by bobcat7677 (561727) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @04:46PM (#14788176) Homepage
    Just friggin get on with it! The time has passed to sit around talking about it. It's been what? 30 years since we last landed on the moon? We need action!

    Sorry, I'm bordering on rant status here...
    • It's been what? 30 years since we last landed on the moon?

      Don't you mean it's been 30 years since NASA's moon landing hoax [nasa.gov]? ;-)

      • Well, if all we need to do is FAKE it... Who needs X prizes? Just render the whole thing with CGI. I'm sure some geek could pull that off in his basement.
        • Strangely, even today our CGI technology is not up to the task of producing footage of the extent and nature of the Apollo footage, with high enough quality to fool both the human visual senses and the most advanced forensic analysis, and certainly not for less than it would cost to just conduct the damn project for real.
          • Who needs to fool forensic analysis? As is proved by the moon landing consiracy theorists, all you need to do is spread a rumor that the footage is fake/real and include some lies about how this or that doesn't (or does) make sense. The public is so dumb that they will submit to your power of suggestion regardless of if the assertions really do make sense.
            • All of which argues in favor of the Apollo Project being real. After all, NASA didn't just "spread a rumor that the footage is real". They actually produced huge amounts of the footage itself, along with mountains of other evidence from eyewitness accounts to physical samples.
        • Who needs X prizes? Just render the whole thing with CGI. I'm sure some geek could pull that off in his basement.

          His name is Stephen Spielberg. His basement is just so bloody big it won't fit under his house.

    • "O.K., boss, this LTX-27 concealable mike is part of the same system that NASA used when they faked the Apollo moon landings. Yeah, the astronauts broadcast around the world from a soundstage at Norton Airforce Base in San Bernadino, California. So it worked for them, shouldn't give us too many problems."

       
  • by sbowles (602816) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @04:49PM (#14788197)
    By the summary, it sounds like a Helicopter could win this.
    • : By the summary, it sounds like a Helicopter could win this.

      3.2.18.1 Take-off vertically under only rocket power from Point A. No aerodynamic or air-breathing methods of hovering, propulsion, or landing are permitted except in the case of abort.
      • Yes, takeoff. Strap some rockets to a small helicopter, just enough to get it 100 meters up and hold it there while you start up the engines, and you're set. Or, use rockets to propel a small airplane vertically over 100 meters (although you'd need to land vertically). Or a blimp. Heck, even a glider plus parachute for the vertical landing - you only need to stay up for 90 seconds and you don't have to stay over the 100 meter initial requirement, plus you have at least five minutes to re-pack your parac
      • One really big thing they're overlooking in their challenge is the fact that lunar gravity is only 1/16 of Earth's. Doing this on Earth is ridiculously difficult by comparison.
        • I will admit that I'm ignorant on the subject. The 100 meters isn't very far by comparison to how far you would have to go to get into lunar orbit (assuming you would use the lander to get into lunar orbit from the moon's surface).
        • One really big thing they're overlooking in their challenge is the fact that lunar gravity is only 1/16 of Earth's. Doing this on Earth is ridiculously difficult by comparison.

          The gravity is lower, but it's probably safe to assume that a vehicle coming in to land on the moon is going to have a -much- higher initial velocity, and it needs to get rid of that velocity to keep from crashing. When you take that into account, the energy requirements are probably pretty similar.
        • That's 1/16 for values of 16 approaching 6.

          Luna's gravity is abou 1/6 of Terra, not 1/16.
      • This whole thing sounds like a handout to the folks over at Armadillo Aerospace. They've been doing vertical takeoff, hover, and landing for some time. All they'll need to do is increase their altitude and throw in a command for lateral movement (I think their control system can already do this if they tell it to). So for this one team it's a mater of refining their existing design a bit and just doing it. For everyone else it may be more work.
    • That's one thing which puzzles me. Why would they restrict launch to a vertical, rocket-powered takeoff from earth? I can see that would be the nicest way to get back from the lunar surface, but there are other terrestrial options. (Like a launch-from-flight: boosting the space craft to altitude via some aircraft and letting it go from there.)
  • Manned or unmanned? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kclittle (625128) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @04:51PM (#14788219)
    TFA doesnt' specify...

    • The rules seem to suggest unmanned but don't prohibit manned. Of course if the person aboard is piloting the thing, then he counts as part of the weight of the control system and not the 25kg (minimum) payload.
  • figures (Score:5, Funny)

    by SgtXaos (157101) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @04:51PM (#14788220) Journal
    "Comments are sought by March 1 with initial sign-ups slated for May 15, according to draft rules, though Murphy added that the comment period could be extended to 30 days."

    Murphy always makes things take longer than you planned...

  • by smaerd (954708) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @04:52PM (#14788238)
    ...these rules make me think of one thing: NASCAR.

    Now all we need is guys driving 4x4s with gun racks, Confederate Flags, Calvin pissing on a [automotive brand] logo, and an X-Prize stencil on or around the back window.

    (seriously, the I think the X-Prize is an incredibly awesome thing... this idea just made me chuckle.)
    • > Now all we need is guys driving 4x4s with gun racks, Confederate Flags, Calvin pissing on a [automotive brand] logo, and an X-Prize stencil on or around the back window.

      Close, no cigar. Back on Earth, would break out the Photoshop, make cut-paste thing.

      - Lunar buggy.
      - Way too much air in right-hand-side tires.
      - Mass driver.
      - "Free Luna!" flag.
      - Cartoon Burt Rutan pissing on a NASA logo.
      - Drive clockwise around crater rim.

      > (seriously, the I think the X-Prize is an incredibly awesome thi

  • Well, it looks like Carmack and company [armadilloaerospace.com] have this one pretty much nailed. Liftoff! [armadilloaerospace.com]

    /greger

    • Well, it looks like Carmack and company have this one pretty much nailed. Liftoff!

      Well... once they get their new engines under control, which from the last update looks like it should be soon, they should be able to do this already: they've already done the vertical liftoff/hover/landing, and they have done countless controlled hovers while driving it around with a joystick. Piloting it up, over, and down shouldn't be much more difficult.

      btw, the movie of the liftoff/hover/landing (well, the landing wa

  • by xanderwilson (662093) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @05:00PM (#14788305) Homepage
    So you attach a rope to a missile, fire the missile at the moon, and then pull it back when you're done. What's the problem here?
  • I just read the rules, and it talks about the contest being held in a "simulated lunar surface". Where are they planning on simulating 1/6G on Earth? Or are they intending that a craft designed for operating on the lunar surface should also be capable of operating on the Earth's surface too?
    • Probably they mean "simulated with regard to terrain".

      Unless the people putting in all of this intense thought and effort into the prospect of moon landings are so completely stupid that they seriously thought they were going to invent anti-gravity just to simulate the moon's mass for their contest.

      Although I have to admit that it would be a pretty big ego boost for you, if they did happen to overlook that particularly obvious problem, while you were able to pick up on it right away without giving the matte
  • Is this a joke? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by StikyPad (445176) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @05:01PM (#14788315) Homepage
    Because launching from the earth is the same? Clearly I'm not a rocket scientist, but with 1/6th the gravity, wouldn't it take far less propulsion to get off the ground on the moon?

    Also: traveling horizontally for 100-200m? I'm guessing there are more crosswinds on earth than on the moon. Also, once again, the same thrust that might move you 100m on the moon wouldn't move you 10m on earth. This seems like a ridiculous standard to meet, and it's going to require far more engineering to accomplish than is necessary for lunar travel.

    Or am I missing some large part of the puzzle here, like their .15Gee test field?
    • Re:Is this a joke? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by twostar (675002)
      The idea is that if it can do 100-200m on earth it can do much more on the Moon. The whole system is suppose to show capability of a Lunar transit system.

      From the Draft:

      The (TITLE) Lunar Lander Challenge is designed to accelerate technology developments supporting the commercial creation of a vehicle capable of ferrying cargo or humans between lunar orbit and the lunar surface.

      Since the moon does not have an appreciable atmosphere, if the system can meet the goals on earth it shouldn't have any probl

      • Since the moon does not have an appreciable atmosphere, if the system can meet the goals on earth it shouldn't have any problems on the moon.

        Not only that, but the energy required to enter orbit is somewhat more than that required for short-term hovering. I suspect that the energy cost of hovering at a certain altitude in Earth's gravity and entering orbit in lunar gravity are probably somewhat similar. Anybody with a better understanding of orbital mechanics than me care to do the calculations?
    • Well, for one thing, it's a heck of a lot easier to get your lander and all it's fuel to the earth than the moon.
    • Easy. They just fly everybody to the moon to test their landers under those rules.
    • 1. Yes, it would take far less propulsion on the moon. Then again, you can use a much lighter prototype on Earth, so it should more or less even out. Besides, there's really nowhere else to go, so we'll have to make do with this planet for now.

      2. You should find some time and place where there isn't much crosswind for the test. There are plenty of such places, including indoors.

      3. Air resistance is pretty negligeble at small speeds, so I don't think the lateral movement part changes much. And gravity doesn'
      • I still don't think it's practical. In response to one of the other posts voicing similar arguments as yours, I posed the question of whether the Apollo lander would work at all on earth, but I didn't receive a response. My guess is that it would not. According to everything on the Wikipedia Apollo Lunar Module [wikipedia.org], tests were all done in orbit, and flight on earth was simulated using a crane.

        The argument that it's "as close as we can get" just doesn't make sense to me. If you can't simulate any of the envi
        • The argument that it's "as close as we can get" just doesn't make sense to me. If you can't simulate any of the environment variables (literally), then the test is almost completely useless. A submarine sucks at traveling on land, but it's not bad for getting around underwater.

          Um... it's not like they're going to take the winning vehicle, toss it on a booster as-is, and see if it'll land on the moon. The thing is supposed to be a technology demonstration. The lunar environment isn't exactly the same as what
  • by Vellmont (569020) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @05:08PM (#14788354) Homepage
    The draft of the rules mention that you need to use rocket power, and not some kind of aerodynamic lift, but that's it. I think they should specify a more realistic conditions of the moon. Obviously you can't have it fly in a vacuum, but you could expose the craft to a vacuum before the flight to make sure it can survive a vacuum. You could do the same thing with the temperature extremes. At the very least a craft shouldn't be able to rely upon earth based navigation aids, like GPS, the suns position in the sky, or even the earths magnetic field.
    • Is GPS really unusable near the moon?

      One fellow I spoke with once who, well, was a rocket scientist, said that GPS can be used in earth orbit, but you typically need to use specialized code that, for example, doesn't assume that the receiver will be under (that is, nearer to the center of the earth) the satellites.

      So GPS can be used in space, but there is probably a limit to how far away it could be used. The satellite antennas are optimized to send signals towards the surface, and at some point the delta b

      • Is GPS really unusable near the moon?


        There are two problems, both of which I think makes GPS unseable on the moon.

        1. Signal strength. The moon is about 240,000 miles from the earth. The GPS satelites are at about 12,000 miles. Maybe you can have a very high gain antenna to boost the signal, but signal strength is going to be a problem.

        2. Lack of triangulation. As you pointed out because of the extreme distance, you're not going to get very good triangulation from any of the satelites. Assuming you coul
        • 3. Wouldn't work quite so well on the "dark side" of the moon!
    • Okay, assume Lunar GPS, then. If you are going to be spending the money for a Lunar Terminal, a few satellites are just operating expenses. You'll only need a few. Heck, you could even drop three on the surface some useful distance away from your usual landing spot and be done with it.
  • This sounds like it was written to the give funding and publicity to Armadillo Aerospace. If they would have remembered to keep their rocket fueled, they would been doing this a year and a half ago.

    http://www.armadilloaerospace.com/n.x/Armadillo/H o me/News?news_id=272 [armadilloaerospace.com]

    If they put their mind to it they should be able to fullful this challenge in a number of weeks.

  • Now all that time I wasted playing Lunar Lander in high school might just pay off!

  • To make the specifications specific enough that you get something useful but not so specific you don't allow for unique thought.
  • You have to make it back.

    Otherwise, it's kind of pointless, don't you think?

    Second rule is, nobody talks about Lunar Landing Contests! ...

    Dang, guess I can't compete. Good thing Paul Allen can take my place with his super secret company on the Seattle waterfront that noone knows is designing and building spacecraft and that you can see with Google Earth ...
  • by msbsod (574856)
    It just amazes me to see that they still deal with these stupid imperial units. Remember when Lockheed Martin's engineers caused the loss of a NASA Mars probe because Lockheed Martin still has not adapted the metric system, which 95% of the world use, including NASA? Or take the Spaceshipone mission. At first nobody knew whether they reached the goal of 100km altitude, because the Spaceshipone team used another imperial unit, the mile? The problem was that people use a ratio of 1.6 km/mile. The actual facto
  • "Daft Rules for X Prize Lunar Lander Challenge"

    I'll say.. oh wait..

  • of the DC-X (Delta Clipper scale test vehicle)? It already did this and more.

    After a series of successful DC-X tests the idiots then in charge at NASA picked the unproven VentureStar design instead, and it turned out that even NASA couldn't afford to buy enough unobtanium to build a working VentureStar.

    (The DC-X was destroyed by human error in a test, but the vehicle performed well in all the prior tests. There was no good reason not to pursue the Delta Clipper design, other than that apparently the t

  • .49 to .99 furlongs
    3.24E-15 to 6.48E-15 parsecs
    7407 to 14815 M&Ms (13.5mm nominal diameter, plain)

    When a spec utilizes metric units there really is no need to convert from otherwise nice round, sensible figures like 100 and 200 to 328 and 656. While it is true that I, like most US citizens, default to thinking in terms of yards and feet, we're not (contrary to what is often asserted) incapable of coping with the occasional meter.

  • SpaceDev, a company which builds microsatellites and propulsion systems (including the rockets on SpaceShipOne) has a neat 3D lunar lander simulator [spacedev.com] (binary link [spacedev.com]) on their website. It's kind of neat to play to get an idea of the control side of the problem.
  • It doesn't mention this in the article submission, but it should be noted that this $2 million prize is an Alliance Challenge in NASA's Centennial Challenges program. Basically, NASA provides the prize money if there's a winning vehicle, while the X Prize Foundation is responsible for actually organizing the event. NASA has stated that they'd like to offer larger-scale competitions and prizes in the future, but they're trying out these smaller ones first.

    Also, there's already a couple of groups which look l

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