There is an argument for playing sports in space. Differences in gravity, atmosphere, and even "weather" can lead to interesting variations in popular sports. And if there is one sport that has been around as long as humanity, it is racing. Viewers tuned to the entertainment could be a great source of funding that could help support other, more scientifically rigorous programs. Now a company called Lunar Outpost has announced plans to hold the first ever alien robot race – on the moon.
This idea is not out of the blue. Races in space have been an integral part of science fiction writers for decades. Everything from awning competitions to ultra marathons around the entire circumference of Mars has popped up at one time or another. It should therefore come as no surprise that a company tries to be the first to hold such a competition.
Lunar Outpost's MAPP (Mobile Autonomous Prospecting Platform) robot.
Credit: Lunar Edition
And Lunar Output has a certain pedigree in lunar exploration – they are the builders of the world's first “commercial lunar rover” (MAPP) that searches for resources. You won't go along with it either. Lunar Output has partnered with an entertainment / education company called Moon Mark to provide high definition video of the race. Also involved in event planning is Intuitive Machines, a commercial lunar payload service provider that helps warring rovers reach their starting lines.
Perhaps the most ambitious part of the plan is the timeline for reaching that starting line, with the consortium aiming for a start date in 2021. For comparison: The Google Lunar X award, in which a commercial partner had to land a “robot spaceship” on the moon, was active from 2007 to 2018 without a company claiming the 30 million dollar award. Now Lunar Outpost is hoping to land not just one rover but two of them and play them off against each other as they race across the lunar surface. All of this just 2 years after one of the X Prize competitors, SpaceIL, finally took off for the moon to destroy its lander on impact.
Model of the Beresheet Moon Lander that crashed on the lunar surface in April 2019.
Photo credit: TaBaZzz – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=76804285
This is of course an extremely ambitious idea. But it is certainly not impossible. If nothing else, the Artemis program has increased general interest in a return to the moon, and this race will piggyback some of that interest. If everything goes according to plan, people will soon be able to look it up and know that they have taken one of their oldest sports to new heights.
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New Atlas – There will be a remote-controlled car race on the moon in 2021. Seriously.
Lead Image – Graphic representation of racing cars on the moon.
Photo credit: Frank Stephenson / Moon Mark