'Doom' creator turned rocket pioneer

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Best known for creating two of the world's most ground-breaking video games, Doom and Quake, John Carmack is quietly breaking ground in another nascent field: commercial rocketry.

Nearly six years ago, Carmack founded Texas-based Armadillo Aerospace to build next-generation vehicles for transporting people and payloads into suborbit. Still under development, his experimental rockets were put to the test at last month's X Prize Cup, as the lone competitors in a NASA-funded contest to build and fly a lunar vehicle.

Armadillo's rockets, called Pixel and Texel, didn't win the $1 million-plus prize money (their legs buckled upon landing). But they did fly and, in doing so, offered hope that a hyped commercial space tourism industry could get off the ground.

Carmack is a rocketry hobbyist, thanks to a "geek childhood with model rockets and science fiction." He only really got serious about the prospect of building space vehicles after funding two participants in a small contest hosted by the Space Frontier Foundation. He still works full time at Doom- and Quake-seller id Software, which defined the genre of first-person shooter games and remain two of the all-time best-selling video games. He devotes the rest of his time to Armadillo, along with about eight part-time engineers and rocketry specialists. Armadillo is funded solely by Carmack.

CNET News.com caught up with Carmack after the X Prize Cup 2006.

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