X PRIZE Cup Underway
Three potentially historic contests will be taking place over the next two days. Two of the competitions will focus on new lunar and planetary landing technology. Both the Northrup Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge and the Vertical Rocket Challenge involve the take off, landing and return of prototype lander vehicles. Decendents of this technology may some day carry us to the moon and other worlds beyond. The favorite for the Lunar Lander prize is Armadillo Aerospace, founded by John Carmak, the millionaire creator of both Doom and Quake.
The third contest may have the most long term ramifications. It is Spaceward Foundation's Space Elevator Games. A contest in two parts, the Space Elevator Games hope to spur the development of a material strong enough to act as a tether into space, as well as new ways of beaming power to tether climbing robots. These students, enthusiasts and engineers are laying the ground work for a highway to the stars. "Up is good", as X PRIZErs are fond of saying.
In addition to the contests, there will be a slew of special events and exhibits. Including prototype engine test firings, sounding rocket launches, and amateur rocketry events. "Rocketman" Dan Schlund will fly around Las Cruces with a rocket belt (jetpack). The Rocket Racing League's new X-Racer will be unveiled to the public as well. A T-38 astronaut training jet will fly over the competition, and the X PRIZE Cup event planners have also promised "other surprises".
For anyone who is even remotely interested in the future of space flight, these next two days should be very exciting. The upstarts of space travel are all gathering in one place to compare notes and field their inventions. And the best thing is that they are not the result of a billion dollar space program, not NASA starched shirt types or foreign government space program representatives. They have talent, big aspirations and know how. But they are regular folks. They are us... Reaching for the stars on their own terms.
"I could have gone on flying through space forever." - Yuri Gagarin