Next week is the Northrup Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, a part of the NASA centennial challenges program. Teams will compete for $2 million in prize money. There are nine teams in the competition, but according to the MSNBC article only two have a chance of completing the competition.
There are two levels to the competition:
Level 1 requires a rocket to take off from a designated launch area, rocket up to 150 feet (50 meters) altitude, and then hover for 90 seconds while landing precisely on a landing pad nearly 330 feet (100 meters) away. The flight must then be repeated in reverse â€” and both flights, along with all of the necessary preparation for each, must take place within a two and a half hour period.
Level 2 requires the rocket to hover for twice as long before landing precisely on a simulated lunar surface, packed with craters and boulders to mimic actual lunar terrain. The hover times are calculated so that the Level 2 mission closely simulates the power needed to perform a real lunar mission.