The United States’ Astrobotics team and Japan’s Hakuta team announced on February 23 their plans to send robot rovers to the moon on the same SpaceX flight next year. These rovers have a less scientific purpose than past lunar rovers: racing.
The two teams are competitors in the Google Lunar XPrize competition and have teamed up to stage the first car race in outer space. Astrobotics has created a lander, named Griffin, which will deliver the pair of rovers in 2016. The winner of the outer space race will receive a portion of the $20 million grand prize.
The race between the solar-powered off-roaders will be at least 500 meters long and the vehicles must stream HD video back to earth throughout the entire race. Astrobotic CEO John Thornton envisions the event to become “’NASCAR on the Moon’ scenario, where competing teams land together, and countries can cheer on their team to the finish line.”
Other teams have been invited to join the race and share the prize with the winner, but none have yet to accept the offer. Final flight plans must be filed by December 31, 2015 for the contest to move forward.