Carmack's spaceship blows up

There's always Robot Wars.

The prototype spaceship built by John Carmack and his Aerospace Armadillo team went up in flames during the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge at the X-Prize competition this year.

He was competing for the USD 350,000 prize money offered for winning the task, where all he had to do was hover his machine in the air for three minutes and then land on a simulated moonscape.

But, just dramatic moments from its goal, the little spaceship toppled over and burst into flames, making real people scream.

"From the field, we heard a little bit of a boom and there was a hard start on the engine of some type," said a startled Peter Diamandis, boss of the X Fire Prize Foundation, in a press conference afterwards (reported by Space.com).

"Number one is not to have any injuries or fatalities when you're dealing with rockets," added colleague Brett Alexander, sensibly. "So from a safety perspective, everything went by the books."

Carmack later relayed to journalists that it was "officially a bad day when it [came] to our vehicle".

It was a far cry from his buoyant behaviour at the recent QuakeCon 2007 conference, then, where he day-dreamed about controlling his spaceship by Wi-Fi and mused over the legality of flying things around the world when they could just as easily be ballistic missiles.

Still, there is always next year, where the top prize money has swollen to USD 2 million and maybe Carmack will move step closer to offering sub-orbital space tourism to you and me.

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