Life is imitating science fiction, but not necessarily in a good way. In an echo of Robert Heinlein's influential tale “The Man Who Sold The Moon” our natural satellite will soon be hosting advertising, although it will be too small to see with even the largest telescope.
In Heinlein's short story a business man, Delos Harriman, funds a mission to the moon by selling sponsorship rights to pretty much everything. Harriman says, “I would cheat, lie, beg, bribe – do anything to accomplish what we have accomplished.”
So far Astrobotic Technology have not revealed themselves as going so far, but their plan to put a can of Pocari Sweat on the lunar surface may make people as queasy as the name of the drink.
Astrobotic are chasing Google's Lunar X prize, which offers $20 million to the first private company that can land a rover on the moon, travel 500m “above, below or on the Lunar surface and send back two 'Mooncasts' to Earth.” The mission must be completed by the end of 2015. Another $10 million in bonus prizes are available if the craft can survive the freezing lunar night or study particular object types.
In return for a rumored $500,000 Astrobotic will carry a can of Pocari Sweat, a citrusy powdered drink popular in Japan and Korea, to the moon on their Griffin lander. The craft will be launched by Elon Musk's Falcon 9.
The specially toughened can will contain not only the powder to make a drink, but the wishes of children from across Asia etched onto silver disks. The disks will bring the total weight to a kilogram. Pocari claim their goal is to inspire a generation of children to become astronauts with the hope of one day reclaiming the can from its resting place. Exactly why a product that needs water, one of the things most desperately lacking from the lunar surface, should prove the new holy grail is unclear. However, what is unambiguous is that Pocari are getting advertising value from their stunt, with articles in numerous outlets, including some in places where Pocari Sweat would be unfamiliar to most. And yes, we know this includes us.