Oct. 27, 2007 at 5:55 PM ET
Armadillo Aerospace's team took off right on time for the launch pad, with its Module 1 rocket ship (and, by the way, its wide-stance Pixel craft) on the back of a flatbed truck. That sets another 150-minute countdown going: In the space of two and a half hours, Armadillo could lay claim to a $350,000 prize from NASA if Module 1 can complete a rocket-powered round trip.
The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, being run today and Sunday at the X Prize Cup in New Mexico, is offering a total of $2 million in prizes backed by NASA's Centennial Challenges program. Because Armadillo is the only contestant, it's eligible only for the $350,000 prize in Level 1, and the $1 million prize in Level 2.
Today, the task at hand is Level 1: The Module 1 will have to blast off vertically from one launch pad, hover for 90 seconds, rise to a minimum height of 50 meters, and touch down at another pad 100 meters away. Then it will have to run the same course back to the start, under the same conditions.
Level 2 is even harder, with 180 seconds of hang time required. But that's a task (and a reward) that will have to wait until Sunday.