No Australian has ever set foot on the surface of the moon before but, thanks to the Australian Space Agency’s latest collaboration with NASA, we will be putting an Australian-made lunar rover up there which is pretty much the next best thing.
From today, Australians can now have a say in what that lunar rover will be called. The Space Agency has announced that voting is open to name the lunar rover, with plans to put a uniquely Australian spin on this historic mission. That started with the naming of the mission itself which is called, no joke, ‘G’Day Moon’.
Before you get too excited and run off to submit the hilarious and original suggestion of Rovie McRoveface, the competition to name the robot is based on a shortlist of four names chosen by judges.
The four names to choose from are: Mateship, Coolamon, Kakirra, and Roo-ver.
The four shortlisted names were selected by a judging panel from more than 8,200 suggestions from schoolkids and regular people which ran from 5 September until 20 October. You now have until 6 December to get your vote in for the competition.
The as-of-yet-unnamed rover will be sent to the surface of the moon on a NASA rocket to collect lunar soil and will assess the soil for the potential for oxygen extraction.
“If we can have oxygen on the Moon and we can start to develop that sustainable presence on the Moon for humans,” Australian Space Agency boss, Enrico Palermo, told ABC News Breakfast.
Names were shortlisted based on their relevancy, creativity, and rationale. Palermo said that judges also looked for “names that really capture Aussie ingenuity, Aussie spirit, something that’s creative and inspirational.”
Coolamon was chosen as it’s an Indigenous word for a multi-purpose tool used for gathering and carrying. Kakirra is another Indigenous word from the Kaurna region in Adelaide meaning ‘moon’. Mateship is fairly self-explanatory, as is Roo-ver which will no doubt win points for the pun.
Other rejected names from the entries include Matilda, Skippy, Bluey, Walkabout, Wombat, Fair Dinkum, Bonza, She’ll Be Right, Dropbear, Strewth, and, our personal favourite, PavRover. Rover McManus and Steve Irwin were also strong entries.
The design for the rover has yet to be finalised, with two Australian teams working on plans set to be finalised mid-next year. The rover needs to weigh less than 20 kg and be capable of dealing with extreme conditions. Regolith, the moon dust and rocks the rover will be digging up, is sharp and jagged while the temperature of the moon fluctuates between 120 degrees and -130 degrees depending on if it’s in the sun or not.
The rover mission is set to cost $150 million and will be “one of the most sophisticated robots we’ve built in the nation,” Palermo has said.
Winners of the naming competition will win a t-shirt, patch, tote bag, key rings and buttons plus a soft toy.
You can vote for your favourite Australian lunar rover name here.