Armadillo’s Carmack: I Was Robbed by NGLLC Judges


John Carmack, founder of Armadillo Aerospace, is crying foul over the decision to give Masten Space Systems an extra day to complete its Level 2 flight for the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. He sent a email to Alan Boyle over at MSNBC:

The current situation, where Masten was allowed a third active day of competition, after trying and failing on both scheduled days, is different. I don’t hold anything against Masten for using an additional time window that has been offered, since we wouldn’t have passed it up if we were in their situation, but I do think this was a mistake on the judges part…..

Permit me to be petty enough to be upset and bitter about a half-million dollars being taken from me and given to my competitor. “The rules have given the judges the discretion to do just about anything up to and including awarding prize money for best effort if they felt it necessary, so there may not be any grounds to challenge this, but I do feel that we have been robbed.

Armadillo made its flights in September. Masten’s effort today came in with a better landing accuracy, putting it in first place for the $1 million prize for Level 2 with one team, Unreasonable Rocket, left to compete. If the results hold, Armadillo would claim a $500,000 second prize for Level 2.

Masten failed to successfully launch its Xoie lander in four  launch windows on Wednesday and Thursday. The company appealed to judges to be given another opportunity to fly on Friday – a request that was granted after much deliberation. Masten completed both flights today with only two to four minutes to spare in a 2 hour, 15 minute launch window.

With the prize competition set to wrap up this weekend with an attempt by Unreasonable Rocket, there’s not enough time for the Armadillo to make another flight. Carmack says that another attempt by Armadillo on Sunday would require a special permit from the FAA, which could not be arranged in time.

Read McCormack’s full statement here.