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Monday, May 8th 2006

The X-Prize Comes Into The Mainstream

Remember the X-Prize? Well, now NASA is getting in on the publicly developed space technology gig.

NASA plans to award $2 million to a team that can design, build and fly a mission that simulates a lunar takeoff and landing.

Patterned after the successful $10-million Ansari X Prize, which was awarded in 2004 for the first private manned spaceflight, NASA is underwriting the Lunar Lander Analog Challenge in hopes of spurring new ideas and low-cost technologies to support its moon exploration initiative.

Even if I had to make a landing in a vehicle built in someone’s garage if I had a chance to go to the moon or Mars, I’d jump at it. There’s virtually no risk that would disuade me, as long as there was some chance of returning.

North Dakota university students have also recently completed a relatively cheap NASA grant to develop a space suit.

Engineers and university students are putting their North Dakota Experimental Planetary Space Suit through a series of challenges, including mock-Martian hikes, sample collections and – this Saturday – a simulated sandstorm.

The Mars spacesuit is the culmination of 14 months of work by faculty and students with the North Dakota Space Grant Consortium, which received $100,000 from NASA to develop the prototype.