Will Try To Complete Level 1 Challenge... And Maybe Level
Saturday was a trying
day for the folks at Armadillo Aerospace... so close, and yet so
Before a crowd of eager attendees at the 2007 Wirefly X Prize
Cup at Holloman AFB in Alamogordo, NM, the Armadillo crew -- led by
company founder John Carmack -- worked to send its MOD rocket
lander on a brief, but important, trip... and came oh-so-close to
accomplishing its goal.
Competing in the $2 million Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander
Challenge, MOD was to lift off vertically from a smooth launch
surface, and reach an altitude of 50 meters; fly horizontally for
100 meters; and land on a second pad, all in over 90 seconds.
An igniter problem scrapped the first attempt, Saturday
morning... but the second attempt went much better, as the MOD took
off as designed, flew its required course, and landed on the pad
In order to win the Level 1 challenge -- and the associated
$350,000 prize -- the team had to turn around and do it again...
and quickly, within two-and-a-half hours. After struggling with
another igniter problem (more on that in a minute) the Armadillo
team launched MOD on its second trip, at 1430 MDT.
The second trip looked good to start... but at about 85 seconds
in, troubles cropped up. The lander's motor apparently cut out,
just a few meters above the pad surface. Two of the lander's legs
caught the edge of the concrete pad, sending the lander tumbling
down on its side.
There are differing accounts what may have happened. Some have
theorized the significant dust cloud kicked up by MOD's rocket
motor may have led to the problem; others report seeing a piece of
the rocket falling off as it came down to land.
Carmack himself gave a very detailed account to Wired.com.
According to that report, workers on the ground used a filed-down
paper clip to free a blockage from one of MOD's igniters... an
on-the-fly repair that appeared to have done the job, but may have
led to unattended consequences during MOD's second flight...
specifically, leading to an increase in fuel flow rate.
The video-game designer and "Doom" creator said he realized his
lander was having problems early into its flight... when MOD
rocketed up from the pad much faster than intended. Carmack says he
tried to complete the flight anyway.
"I was afraid the engine might blow," Carmack said. "We saw we
had a hurt engine, so we hustled it over the pad."
Carmack says the damage incurred in the hard landing is
relatively light, and easy to fix. The team plans to try once again
to complete the Level 1 challenge Sunday morning.
If successful in accomplishing Level 1, the team plans to also
try flying its Pixel landing craft in the Level 2 challenge, later
in the day. To claim that $1 million award, the team must land and
then take off from a pad simulating the lunar surface... a tougher
task than landing on the smooth pad in Level 1.
As ANN reported, the
Armadillo Aerospace team also tried to take the prize at the 2006 X