That tiny speck in the distance is Armadillo Aerospace’s MOD 1 aircraft, right before not quite winning the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge at the X Prize Cup in Alamogordo, New Mexico on Saturday. To win Level One, the lander has to rise up to 150 feet in the air, hover for 90 seconds and land on a pad 100 meters away. Then it has to do the same thing in reverse. MOD 1 nailed the first part, but failed in the final stretch of its reverse trip. A nozzle failure knocked the lander off balance with only seven seconds to go, causing it to miss the landing pad. As a result, the $350,000 prize is still unclaimed. —Seth Fletcher
Update: Sunday morning’s attempt failed, too, again on the reverse trip. Sounds like the problem this time was a crack in the MOD 1’s engine—MOD 1’s new engine, which the Armadillo team installed after yesterday’s failed try. Word is they’ll try it Level One again this afternoon.
Another update: No dice for Armadillo this year. Their afternoon attempt failed; there was talk earlier today of a possible third attempt this evening, but according to an X Prize spokesperson, Armadillo founder John Carmack decided against it. That means it’ll be this time next year, at the earliest, before anyone wins the prize.