Remote-Controlled Cars Could Be Raced On The Moon Next October

A concept image of the cars blasting across the lunar surface. Frank Stephenson/Moon Mark/John Fowler (CC BY 2.0)

Brace your inner child because in 2021 a company will be dropping some remote-controlled cars onto the surface of the Moon to face off in a lunar racing showdown. Partially designed by high-schoolers alongside Frank Stephenson, designer of the McLaren P1, the cars will be loaded into the Nova-C lander to aim for a touchdown in October 2021.

The race will be held by Moon Mark in partnership with Intuitive Machines and Lunar Outpost, and will include two teams of US students after a grueling series of technological qualifying rounds.

“Moon Mark’s Mission 1 competition will include six diverse teams of high school students selected from across the United States, who will compete in a series of qualifying challenges that include unique demands, such as drone and autonomous vehicle racing, e-gaming, and a space commercialization entrepreneurship contest,” states the press release.  

“The two top teams from the qualifying rounds will win a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build and race two vehicles on the Moon.”

If it sounds ridiculous, that’s probably because it is – but there is a point to the lunar Grand Prix. The companies hope the mission will capture the imagination of students around the world, offer high-fliers an opportunity to get their creation on the Moon, and further develop the limits of extraterrestrial vehicles. It’s also possible that all that explaining was simply to justify a remote-controlled car race on the Moon.

The cars will weigh around 2.5 kilograms (5.5 pounds) each and are being created in partnership with the company Lunar Outpost to ensure their worthiness on the Moon’s unforgiving terrain. Lunar Outpost specialize in aerospace mobility and will adapt their Mobile Autonomous Prospecting Platform (MAPP), which was originally designed as a mobile scientific discovery vehicle for use in the racers.

The MAPP design. Credit: Lunar Outpost

Alongside the racers, the Nova-C, a lunar lander developed by Intuitive Machines, will also be carrying a payload of scientific equipment in partnership with NASA. Strapped to the SpaceX-designed Falcon 9 rocket, the launch will be a collaborative effort and will represent the first commercial lunar landing.

However, racing on the moon while controlling the cars from Earth surely involves a significant delay between the driver and the car, right? New Atlas suggests yes, there will likely be some serious lag, with the best-case scenario being a 2.6-second delay between a thumbstick press and the driver seeing the cars turn. However, with the MAPP having a not-exactly-eyewatering top speed of just 0.36 km/h (0.22 mph), a bit of input lag might not have too much of a detrimental impact.

[H/T: New Atlas]


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