Finding our lunar feet, losing lunar rocks

Another success has been achieved by a private consortium bidding for the variety of space barrier prizes out there. Armadillo Aerospace have managed to complete Level 2 of a two stage challenge known as the 2009 Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. Unlike in the three previous years, the challenge can be undertaken anywhere and at any date between the 20th of July and 31st of October. Although Armadillo have completed both Level 1 and Level 2 of the challenge, if another team is able to complete the levels with greater accuracy they can still be beaten. Level 1 involves making a mock launch. Level 2 involves allowing a mock lunar lander to hover for 180 seconds, a feat that requires the same amount of force a lander descending onto the Moon will require. The two flights that gave Armadillo success in Level 2 are shown below, both taken from the Xprize Youtube Channel:

Meanwhile, perhaps such landers could be of use in bringing down a few more Moon rocks to replace some of the ones recently found to be missing. Moon rocks from Apollos 11 and 17 (the first and last mission) were distributed to the various countries of the world. The rocks took the form of small pebbles encased in plastic globes and were handed out in the seventies. The trouble is few of them went on active public display, meaning the rest have been moldering in dark cupboards for the past three decades or more. This means the paper trails have in some cases been entirely lost. In other cases, most notably where regimes have been toppled or involved dictators who chose to keep the rocks for themselves rather than their countries, or in a few cases of confirmed theft, such as the Honduras moon rock, the rocks have vanished entirely. There is presently an effort to collate the whereabouts of the rocks around the world, though it will involve trawling through more than three decades worth of bureaucracy in more than 130 countries…


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