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Masten Claims $1M NASA Prize

5 Nov 2009, 14:24 UTC
Masten Claims $1M NASA Prize
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A NASA competition to stimulate commercial space projects has a winner -- Masten Space Systems of California is being awarded the top $1 million prize for demonstrating a lunar lander. The race literally came down to the wire, reports the California-based X Prize Foundation, which oversaw the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge for NASA, part of the agency's Centennial Challenges program. Over the weekend, teams gathered in Mojave, Calif., for the last round of flights. The remote-controlled vehicles had to fly for at least three minutes and make precision touchdowns on rock-strewn landing pads at least 50 meters away. Masten was the underdog. Armadillo Aerospace of Texas had already won the first round of the competition last year and qualified for the top prize in September. Masten's Xoie rocket landed closer to the bull's eye than Armadillo's Scorpius, achieving an average landing accuracy of 19 cm compared to Armadillo's 87 cm. Armadillo, which is owned by id Software founder John Carmack, picks up a $500,000 second-place prize. Judges gave Masten an extra day to refly its rocket after a fire broke out and damaged the vehicle during its first attempt. That prompted a polite but pointed outcry from Carmack, who ...

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