Just days after NASA ran a test launch of its spiffy new Ares I-X rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a small but devout band of creative space geeks have been trying their hand at rocket science in the middle of the Mojave Desert.

On shoestring budgets that probably wouldn’t suffice to pay the salary of NASA’s personnel for a day, four privately sponsored teams have been competing in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge for a chance to win $2 million in total prize money in six different tasks.

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