NASA Approves $2.5M Lunar Lander Challenge

NASA and the Santa Monica-based X PRIZE Foundation announced today that the X PRIZE Foundation will manage the first NASA Centennial Challenge, a competition which will award $2.5M in prizes to the first vehicle to simulate a trip between the Moon's surface, to lunar orbit, and back to the lunar surface. The X Prize foundation, which developed the Ansari X Prize, will manage the competitions at no cost to NASA, with NASA contributing the prize money. The Lunar Lander Challenge is scheduled to take place in New Mexico in October, and will have two levels of competition. The first will require takeoff a launch vehicle to 150 feet in altitude, a hover time of 90 seconds, and a landing on a launch pad 100 meters away; the second one requires a similar launch, but a landing on a rocky, simulated, lunar surface. The competition is one of a number of new prizes coming from the X PRIZE Foundation, including efforts in the area of automotive technology and genomics. The foundation is headed by chairman Peter H. Diamandis, and now includes Celera Genomics founder J. Craig Venter, Google co-founder Larry Page, and Elon Musk, Chairman of SpaceX and a co-founder of eBay, on its board of trustees.