The Google Lunar X-Prize is a great initiative that awards $20 million to whoever manages to fly a robot to the Moon, travel 500 meters and then send pictures back to the Earth first (prizes drop for 2nd, 3rd, etc). One of the most interesting competitors, the Romanian team fought a year’s worth of bad weather and a ruptured balloon to send their probe flying towards the Moon.
The Aeronautics and Cosmonautics Romanian Association (ARCA) is a non profit organization, one of 22 registered teams in the X-Prize. What’s so special about this team? Well, they’re the only team that wants to build their own rocket – their goal is to reach the Moon in a rocket-balloon launch platform.
The technology definitely raises numerous challenges, and the first two attempts were failed (the Black Sea can be restless sometimes), but third time’s the charm. On the first of October, the balloon went up, and then the rocket went on, going to an altitude of 40 kilometers; this was of course just a milestone in the whole process, the final rocket (Haas) will be 30 times heavier than this one (Helen 2).
They’re quite in a hurry, because if they want to win the X-Prize, then Haas will probably have to be the first to launch, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed for them, as well as for the other teams.