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Seriously, $250,000? (4, Insightful)

Rick in China (2934527) | about 4 months ago | (#46722703)

That seems like a pittance for an ENORMOUS feat. That's not enough to buy an apartment in a 2nd tier city, and they expect it to encourage a company to be like "Great, 250k, lets put a lot more effort into bringing samples back from MARS."

Re:Seriously, $250,000? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46722839)

RTFA. The requirements are actually pretty easy -- they're just hoping for some outside the box thinking from amateur rocket guys.
This is the adult equivalent of the egg drop challenge with points going to originality.

Re:Seriously, $250,000? (1, Insightful)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#46723935)

The requirements are actually pretty easy

Really? I'm sorry but there are some hard constraints here. The return launch itself requires a reasonably well controlled vehicle with a delta-V of about 4,5 km/s or so. On Mars, that effectively means inertial guidance, and either a really hefty SRB or an engine with storable liquid propellants. All that reliably working without any pre-launch checks, after spending a year in space already and having been subjected to one landing. If that is not enough , it also mostly means making it dumb and sturdy, which means making it heavy. Making it heavy, however, makes the $250k price tag a moot point since the money you save on building it will bite you in the ass when your Earth-to-Mars launch costs suddenly jump through the roof as a result.

Re:Seriously, $250,000? (5, Informative)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | about 4 months ago | (#46724173)

You clearly didn't read the actual challenge [nasa.gov] .

The Challenge would award prizes for successful demonstration of an end-to-end autonomous operation to sequentially accomplish the following tasks: picking up the sample, inserting the sample into a single stage rocket in a horizontal position, erecting the rocket, launching the rocket to an altitude not less than 800m, deploying a sample container with the cache internally sealed and landing the container at less than 6m/s terminal velocity.

$50,000 will be awarded to the team with the lowest total system mass that completes all tasks.

The goal is not to get someone to build a Mars lander for $250k. The goal is to get get amateurs to think about innovative ideas for how to solve some of the problems in the hope that some of those ideas will be useful when NASA designs a real lander.

Re:Seriously, $250,000? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#46726625)

I have read it. The problem I have with this is how much it resembles a proposal along the lines of "show us your balsa models so that we could find something useful in them for our F-35 project".

Re:Seriously, $250,000? (1)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | about 4 months ago | (#46730085)

You say read it and yet you said that a launch that only needs to reach 800 meters "requires a reasonably well controlled vehicle with a delta-V of about 4,5 km/s or so"? That speed would mean you'd hit the required altitude in a little under 0.2 seconds. There is no possible interpretation of the requirements that would result in that statement.

the only reason you said that is that you DIDN'T READ THE REQUIREMENTS and you're fucking pathetic at lying to cover it up after the fact.

Re:Seriously, $250,000? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#46730103)

I was talking about the F-35, obviously, not about the balsa model. The "discovery" that both need to have wings won't further the former an inch.

Re:Seriously, $250,000? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 4 months ago | (#46724645)

We will cloud source it to the internet and come back with a solution.

Found it.
We will get Chuck Norris to launch a Australian Pirate Zombie Ninja from a catapult at Mars. which is the perfect candidate because being a Pirate they will want to collect treasure, being a Zombie they will be immune from death, and as a ninja they will be stealthy and fast, the Australian part is because they will know how to boomerang themselves back to earth.
Flawless where is my $250,000 I have a mortgage to pay off.

Re:Seriously, $250,000? (1)

ensignyu (417022) | about 4 months ago | (#46722893)

None of these X-prize style challenges offer anywhere near the R&D cost of even attempting the challenge.

It's mostly about the prestige -- though I guess people might consider a $10 million challenge more prestigious than a $250,000 one.

And if organizations started offering $10,000 for a bunch of smaller challenges (that still cost a couple orders of magnitude over $10,000 to develop) I'd imagine the novelty would wear off.

Re:Seriously, $250,000? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46723331)

I'm offering ten bucks for the first person to travel to Alpha Centauri.

Re:Seriously, $250,000? (1)

youn (1516637) | about 4 months ago | (#46724179)

I am adding my 2 cents to the prize, effectively making it $10.02

Re:Seriously, $250,000? (2)

Johann Lau (1040920) | about 4 months ago | (#46723363)

"It's mostly about the prestige"

You mean like an unpaid internship?

Re:Seriously, $250,000? (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 4 months ago | (#46723531)

I'd worry more about getting rid of those then the value of X-prize things.

Re:Seriously, $250,000? (1)

Johann Lau (1040920) | about 4 months ago | (#46723591)

Sure, and I guess NASA also doesn't exactly have fat coffers, so I don't blame them for not offering more. But considering the allocation of funds to agencies who spend most of it on fucking up the world and the US, it still seems like some kind of joke. But don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to pick on NASA, I'm sure they mean well and would be more generous if they had a bigger budget.

Re:Seriously, $250,000? (1)

Stuarticus (1205322) | about 4 months ago | (#46723139)

Well, if a TV show thinks they can start a Martian colony then I guess anything's possible.

Re:Seriously, $250,000? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46723697)

The technical details of the MarsOne proposal are all very sensible, and in some cases quite innovative. If they had the budget to try, I don't doubt that they'd make the money back easily.

I do doubt they'll get the chance.

Re:Seriously, $250,000? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46723323)

But there's another prize on offer too.

$500,000 for the first person to design and build a starship with warp drive, holodeck and transporter. All technology developed becomes the property of NASA. Good luck everybody!

Re:Seriously, $250,000? (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 4 months ago | (#46724225)

$500,000 wouldn't even pay for the lawyers fees when you are sued by Paramount

Re:Seriously, $250,000? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46723887)

800 metres - seems doable...

Not high enough (1)

ksemlerK (610016) | about 4 months ago | (#46722791)

Wasn't the X-Prize somewhere around $1M just to get into suborbital flight? The reward for this feat of engineering should be around 1000 times as much as it is proposed.

The Slashdot logo says... (2)

LookIntoTheFuture (3480731) | about 4 months ago | (#46722795)

Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

No self respecting nerd uses Facebook! Who are you trying to reach with this?

Re:The Slashdot logo says... (1)

sexconker (1179573) | about 4 months ago | (#46722857)

Self-loathing nerds, clearly.

Re:The Slashdot logo says... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46723005)

I'm fixing my aunt's computer. Coffee break and quick slashdot perusal was the plan. The first thing that jumped me was a huge banner at the top saying "WARNING! THERE HAVE BEEN GRAVE ISSUES DETECTED IN YOUR WINDOWS!!! DOWNLOAD FIX HERE!!!!!111" or somesuch (it was in my native language). Seriously slashdot? Of all the things you could have been showing me, you're showing me THIS?

I get the IBM ad in the right column, I've even looked at it to check whether I was missing out on the new Big Iron Cloud Virtualization or whatever. I get it, ads are necessary for a free offering on the web, even though you're already making me read those blunt slashvertisements. I get it, you're using an ad network because tracking is cool yo.

I don't get crapware scare ads on a site for nerds.

Probably haven't been looking at slashdot without an ad blocker in over 10 years. Maybe I've missed the jump after the buyout, but this? Rock bottom. Shame on you, Dice.

Thanks for reminding me to install an adblocker though.

Re:The Slashdot logo says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46723071)

I usually don't install adblock when I reinstall a system. I want to give my regular pages a possibility to disappoint me before I do that.
It's when I get the first popup, sound or blinking scaremongering from ads that I install adblock and I usually forget to turn it off.

It could be good for advertising driven webpages to remember that. Pulling in ads from random pages is a huge risk. If you don't take the time to make sure that the ads are reasonable you ruin the market for everyone.

Re:The Slashdot logo says... (2)

Hillgiant (916436) | about 4 months ago | (#46725035)

Let's be honest. The self respecting nerds left /. years ago.

If this were a road trip (2)

korbulon (2792438) | about 4 months ago | (#46723179)

That amount wouldn't even pay for snacks.

Re:If this were a road trip (1)

invictusvoyd (3546069) | about 4 months ago | (#46723387)

Perhaps the real money is in the samples .. imagine how much a kilo of martian rock would be worth in the black market .. .. ya know collectors stuff .. couple of hundred mils atleast

Is that 1970 dollars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46723585)

I'll send them the plans for the Luna 16 probe the Russians sent to the Moon in 1970. It sent back lunar rock samples. I'll just write the Russian word for Mars on the plans.

Re:Is that 1970 dollars? (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 4 months ago | (#46724119)

I do not know what are the challenge requirements but you need a lot more delta-v to takeoff from Mars than you need to takeoff from the Moon.

Horizontal (1)

necro81 (917438) | about 4 months ago | (#46723687)

The Challenge would award prizes for successful demonstration of an end-to-end autonomous operation to sequentially accomplish the following tasks: picking up the sample, inserting the sample into a single stage rocket in a horizontal position, erecting the rocket, launching the rocket to an altitude not less than 800m, deploying a sample container with the cache internally sealed and landing the container at less than 6m/s terminal velocity.

I wonder why the rocket starts off horizontal. For an actual sample return mission, do they intend to land the return rocket horizontally? I always figured that the return rocket would be upright when it sets down or gets placed on the surface, like the Delta Clipper [wikipedia.org] or Grasshopper [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Horizontal (1)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 4 months ago | (#46723963)

I assume it's far easier to drop the samples into a horizontal tube with an open hatch. You just let gravity magically suck the sample into the hatch. I guess a rocket erector is less failure-prone than some sort of telescopic arm to put samples into an upright rocket. Also, the hatch door will close by itself when the return rocket is horizontal. One less mechanism to worry about, or at least simplify.

As for the return, I'd assume again we're talking about a capsule the size of a basketball that either crashes back to Earth or gets caught in mid-air by a plane. That's how film was recovered from early spy satellites.

Re:Horizontal (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#46723989)

Only a part of the landing vehicle would launch back. Nothing else makes sense, really - you don't want the extra weight for the return vehicle, and the lander could conceivably serve as a supporting base station during launch (telemetry, additional guidance etc.) So the two issues (the landing position and launch position) are disjoint (only the lander has to land in a mostly upright position). Also, you don't know where the lander is going to land on Mars (it could land on a local slope), so you'd need some mechanism to properly "verticalize" the return vehicle after landing anyway. The chance that the return vehicle will be upright after landing without any adjustment seems negligible. If that's the case, unless the return vehicle is exceedingly big, you could as well have it land in horizontal position in the first place (since you'll need some mechanical contraption for rotating it into vertical position anyway), simply to make the lander more stable during landing.

Re:Horizontal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46724041)

A rocket is usually engineered to withstand a certain amount of force (acceleration at launch) longitudinally, along its axis. Building it to withstand lateral acceleration (impact when landing/crashing into the surface of Mars) seems to complicate things unnecessarily.

Re:Horizontal (1)

necro81 (917438) | about 4 months ago | (#46726307)

So the two issues (the landing position and launch position) are disjoint (only the lander has to land in a mostly upright position)

So the lander - a launch platform - is going to land on the surface of Mars with a long, horizontal rocket laying across it? That was the part that didn't make much sense to me.

Easy Peasy (2)

RevWaldo (1186281) | about 4 months ago | (#46724045)

I mean, you NASA guys got plutonium, right? We'll have to focus the blast somehow but we'll get your rocks into orbit, no problemo.

.

Re:Easy Peasy (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about 4 months ago | (#46728159)

I was thinking of the line from the summary "into orbit." They didn't say which orbit. Mars? Earth? Sun?

Step 1: Drop Atomic Bomb on Mars.
Step 2: Collect money when pieces of Mars enter into Mars orbit or Solar orbit.

I dunno if you could get a nuclear bomb to Mars for under $250,000, so I'm not sure there's a "Step 3: Profit!" here.

where no MANic viagrant has gone before... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46724199)

even further from the truth & our good spirits than was previously believed possible... we can only attempt to understand the book of death & debt 'workings' of the self appointed inbred (religiously in their own image) WMD on credit cabal franchise crown royal nazi zion neogods as we must continue to beware falling gargoyles etc....

Trickery (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46724717)

This is more about bureaucrats publically displaying their "penury" than actually getting anything useful done. Everyone will see poor NASA reduced to offering a truly pathetic sum, feel sorry for them, and want to give them money. So, if you personally feel that way, write them a check. If the US wants a real Mars mission, the President and Congress should tell everyone in NASA they have 10 years to do this or they're all fired.

wow. 250K? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 4 months ago | (#46725775)

They should offer up 250 million to the first American one that can do this. It would be a fraction of the costs of what NASA would pay. And if they give them until say 2020, it would really push it. Heck, I would not be surprised to see ATK make that happen.

Great idea! (1)

Katatsumuri (1137173) | about 4 months ago | (#46726173)

Maybe I should set up a $100 Enceladus submarine competition. That should speed things up.

Or maybe let's crowdsource a $250,000 Lunar Base Challenge for NASA?

The possibilities are endless.

Why? (1)

Ranbot (2648297) | about 4 months ago | (#46726297)

It's not clear to me why NASA wants to retrieve a sample, other than they think it's an interesting technological hurdle. I'm pretty sure it's much easier and cheaper to land whatever instruments you need on the surface. By the time viable exporting from Mars is realistic technology will be so much farther ahead that I doubt the work for this prize will even matter. I'd love be convinced otherwise though...

For the record I'm a supporter of the space program and scientific research in general, and understand that scientific leaps in understanding can occur in unexpected places, but I think it is possible to direct funds to where the most potential is.

Competitions like this are a slap in the face (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46726955)

to all the Scientists and Engineers who currently work for and at NASA. Some of the brightest people in the world work at NASA, why not just let them do their job? If you want some kids to design stuff give them a scholarship to a good university if they win. If this is a public outreach activity why not shoot for something bigger? Some like like terraforming Venus?

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