Thursday, October 11, 2007

Pomerantz Report on Lunar Lander Challenge Early Returns

The Pomerantz Report has a detailed look at the early results of the 2007 Lunar Lander Challenge. We don't know who will win the prize, but we know there are winners all over the place when it comes to the business and technology of space.

NASA is already a big winner, whether the prizes are won or not this year. As the post notes:

NASA pays nothing to the X PRIZE Foundation for administering this prize. All of the expenses associated with producing therules, registering teams, coordinating the event, assuring safety, promoting the competition, and providing educational programs relevant to the prize came at zero expense to NASA.

Indeed, the only real expenses to NASA were some staff time and a small amount of travel and supplies (the big foam-core checks, et cetera). In terms of staff time, it’s fairly astounding to realize that NASA’s prize program, Centennial Challenges—one of NASA’s most exciting and interesting programs in years—is for the most part run by one person. And it’s not only his full-time project.

The post continues by noting all of the significant benefits that NASA has gotten out of the LLC for this small price, plus possibly some or all of the $2M prize. In summary:

So, although we can yet say who will walk home with a prize check at the end of this year’s Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, we can already identify several winners: NASA, the US Government, US tax-payers, and the space industry as a whole.