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Lunar lander on the pad

Texas-based Armadillo Aerospace has kicked off its first attempt to win $350,000 in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. It's the first big event at the X Prize Cup, here at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

Armadillo would win that money if it can set up its Mod-1 lunar lander prototype, get it to launch vertically from its pad to rise to a height of 50 meters, hover for 90 seconds, touch down on another pad 100 meters away, then reverse its course to come back to the starting point.

Sounds easy, doesn't it? Well, you have to do all that within 150 minutes, and so you have to fix anything that goes wrong during that time. And in fact, the first time Armadillo tried to launch, nothing happened. The team had to track down the glitch, recycle its countdown and repressurize the Mod-1's propellant tanks for another go.  

Launch commentator David Livingston, host of the Space Show, noted that such launch delays come all too frequently when you're working with rockets.

"None of us like 'em," Livingston said.

Check back for updates as the 150-minute timer ticks down.