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Video Game Developer Qualifies for Million Dollar NASA Prize

Video game developer John Carmack, better known for his work on Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein, has qualified for a million dollar prize from NASA. America’s space agency challenged the nation’s brightest minds to come up with a design contest known as the Lunar Lander Challenge. Carmack’s team, known as Armadillo Aerospace, won $350,000 after taking first prize last year in NASA’s Level 1 competition.

Now they are aiming for Level 2 and the million dollar prize. As MSNBC.com describes it: “The alcohol-fueled, pressure-tank-equipped rocket has to hang in the air for a minimum of 3 minutes during each leg of the round trip, and it has to land on a pad that is strewn with mock lunar boulders.”

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“The judges will give Carmack and the rest of the ground crew just 135 minutes to fuel up, fly, refuel, fly again and secure the Super Mod after the flight. There will be built-in holds along the way, however, so the whole exercise could take longer than 135 minutes – in fact, Carmack is wondering whether the clock can be stopped if it starts raining.”

The Armadillo team succeeded in their mission, but will not know if they won the million dollars until sometime in October. That is because other teams will get a chance at the million dollars. If multiple teams make it through the course, the team with the best average accuracy wins. Carmack has loftier goals than just the prize, though. “Eventually we’re hoping to go all the way to orbit,” he said.