NASA and X Prize team up for lunar lander

October 12, 2005

NASA is teaming up with the X Prize Foundation to offer a cash prize to private teams that develop suborbital lunar landers and payload carriers.

The Suborbital Payload Challenge will reward the first team that demonstrates a reusable suborbital rocket to altitudes or speeds of interest to science researchers. Once demonstrated, such a capability could support NASA and other research payloads.

The Suborbital Lunar Lander Analog Challenge will reward the first team to build a vertical take-off/vertical landing suborbital vehicle capable of reaching a speed consistent with the energies required to land and launch from the moon. This prize is intended to stimulate development of technologies and capabilities for lunar and suborbital space flight.

It’s too early in the morning for me to have many thoughts on what this could mean for space exploration, but it might just be a sign that NASA is attempting to change their strategy a bit.  At the very least, the minimum cash prize of $250,000 for each contest adds a small incentive for the private teams, and will speed their development, even if NASA still ends up left in the dust.

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