The X Prize Foundation posted a statement about the 2009 Lunar Lander CHallenge Monday that announces an end to the “gather and show” approach to the competitions. For 2009 (and presumably beyond), the X Prize Judges will travel to the “facility of their choice”, their being each competing team.
The reason for this change is economic – hosting the X Prize Cup and the this year’s stand alone “LL Challenge” is costly and not covered by NASA. One wonders what the branded sponsor contributes … namely Northrop Grummon, but we’ll leave that aside.
So it looks like the “competition” this year will consist of a series of dates when individual teams will fly their vehicles before the judges and, is successful, win the prizes. Not as dramatic, but more akin to business rules than X Prizes flashy “show time” approach. Each team will be under pressure to be ready to fly at the earliest opportunity as there’s no longer a hard and fast date to shoot for. While I certainly enjoyed going to New Mexico for X Prize Cup and missed out on being at the Challenge this year (it was “team members only”), I understand the need to keep expenses low. I guess flying an extended Conrad Square turned out to be harder than most people expected, me included.