Sunday, November 04, 2007

Diamandis on Lunar Lander Challenge

Popular Science had an interview with Peter Diamandis that gives some insight into what they're thinking about next for the Lunar Lander Challenge:

PS So if Armadillo wins the Lunar Lander Challenge today, what will be the centerpiece challenge next year? [Editor’s note: Armadillo didn’t win, so the Lunar Lander Challenge is still up for grabs. Still, something has to come after the Lunar Lander Challenge is finally claimed.]

PD That’s a good question. We don’t know yet. We have ideas. We’ll be talking to NASA, we’ll be talking to the Air Force about other prize purses. There will be prizes that move technology forward, that are valuable to the team, valuable to the sponsors, and make great theater. We’re thinking about, say, Lunar Lander Level Three. We’ve talked about the idea of what we call a Rock and Rove—a small rocket that might go up to 5 or 10,000 feet and then land a robotic rover out in the distance that has to then rove back to the starting line.

I missed this during the X PRIZE Cup media tidal wave. I haven't tried to catch up (since I was away from the computer that weekend) with everything, but I thought this particular comment with Google Lunar X PRIZE overtones was pretty interesting, just to show how they're thinking.

Of course my first reaction is "why wait until the current Lunar Lander Challenge is won to start a new prize, or to add on to the Lunar Lander Challenge?" Having 2 big competitions in the same event would be better for both challenges, in terms of generating a lot of public interest in seeing the events. The same goes for a Lunar Lander Challenge that's been augmented with an even bigger goal (in addition to, not replacing, the current goals). In fact, I also like the idea of adding more modest goals as stepping stones to the big prizes, or modest 3rd-place prizes to encourage a broader industry.

I wonder if the Air Force would be interested in contributing to such a prize to make their Air Show even more successful? There are a lot of other prize ideas that would be useful to the Air Force in their own right, quite aside from helping generate buzz for the Air Show, too.