2016 Will Be The Year We See “NASCAR On The Moon”

Finally mankind will achieve its longtime goal of turning our moon into a giant race track.

image via nasa/david scott

“What the hell,” goes the classic Seinfeld joke, “were they doing with a car on the goddamned moon? You’re on the moon, already! Isn’t that far enough?”

Now, decades after Apollo 15 first plopped a space-age dune buggy onto their Hadley Apennine landing site, plans are in motion for a 2016 race that’s being called “NASCAR on the Moon.” But, lest you start picturing a lunar surface covered in engine-revving Ricky Bobbys, it’s worth pointing out that this moon race will actually be taking place with unmanned robots and will cover a distance of just five hundred meters.

Okay, so it’s not quite Days Of Thunder.

image via (cc) flickr user tsbl2000

In a release out this week, it was announced that two groups participating in the Google-sponsored Lunar XPRIZE competition will join forces in an effort to land their respective rovers on the surface of the Moon; The American Astrobotic and Japanese Hakuto teams have agreed to share space on a Astrobotic’s planned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch, expected to blast off from Cape Canaveral, Fla. sometime in late 2016. That, however, is where their cooperation seems to end. Once their ride lands safely on the Moon, unmanned vehicles from both teams will roll out, and book it across the lunar landscape in a mad scramble to complete the competition’s requisite milestones first.

In order to win the competition’s $30 Million prize, a private team (one with less than 10% government funding) must:

  • Land a robot safely on the Moon
  • Move 500 meters on, above, or below the Moon’s surface; and
  • Send back HDTV Mooncasts for everyone to enjoy

Per Google Lunar XPRIZE director of technical operations, Andrew Barton, cooperation between competitors is actually very much in keeping with the spirit of the challenge:

"We are delighted that two of our teams have engaged in this partnership for their Google Lunar XPRIZE missions. Stimulating new business ecosystems is one of the core goals of any XPRIZE competition, and this joint venture is an excellent example of how humanity's commercial and economic interests will expand into space in the coming years. This announcement builds on the progress seen during the recent Google Lunar XPRIZE Milestone Prize awards [Which both Astrobotic and Hakuto have won] and we look forward to the teams furthering this momentum with the news of a confirmed launch contract.”

As Astrobotic’s CEO describes it:

“We envision a ‘NASCAR on the Moon’ scenario, where competing teams land together, and countries can cheer on their team to the finish line. HAKUTO is the first team signed to fulfill our dream of the first race beyond Earth’s orbit.”

With “NASCAR on the Moon” almost within our reach, can lunar tailgating be far behind?

NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic of discussion as of late, but it's something that's occurred all throughout history. Class structure is a complicated issue, especially when you consider that haves and have nots have been in existence for over 4,000 years.

A study published in Science took a look at over 100 late Neolithic and early Bronze Age skeletons found in a burial site in southern Germany. The study "shed light on the complexity of social status, inheritance rules, and mobility during the Bronze Age." Partly by looking at their teeth and the artifacts they were buried with, researchers were able to discover that wealth inequality existed almost 4,000 years ago. "Our results reveal that individual households lasting several generations consisted of a high-status core family and unrelated low-status individuals, a social organization accompanied by patrilocality and female exogamy, and the stability of this system over 700 years," the study said.

Keep Reading Show less

Climate change means our future is uncertain, but in the meantime, it's telling us a lot about our past. The Earth's glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, but as the ice dwindles, ancient artifacts are being uncovered. The Secrets of the Ice project has been surveying the glaciers on Norway's highest mountains in Oppland since 2011. They have found a slew of treasures, frozen in time and ice, making glacier archeologists, as Lars Pilø, co-director of Secrets of the Ice, put it when talking to CNN, the "unlikely beneficiaries of global warming."

Instead of digging, glacier archeologists survey the areas of melting ice, seeing which artifacts have been revealed by the thaw. "It's a very different world from regular archaeological sites," Pilø told National Geographic. "It's really rewarding work.

Keep Reading Show less

When former Pittsburgh Steelers' center Mike Webster committed suicide in 2002, his death began to raise awareness of the brain damage experienced by NFL football players. A 2017 study found that 99% of deceased NFL players had a degenerative brain disease known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Only one out of 111 former football players had no sign of CTE. It turns out, some of the risks of traumatic brain injury experienced by heavily padded adults playing at a professional level also exist for kids with developing brains playing at a recreational level. The dangers might not be as intense as what the adults go through, but it can have some major life-long consequences.

A new PSA put out by the Concussion Legacy Foundation raises awareness of the dangers of tackle football on developing brains, comparing it to smoking. "Tackle football is like smoking. The younger I start, the longer I am exposed to danger. You wouldn't let me smoke. When should I start tackling?" a child's voice can be heard saying in the PSA as a mother lights up a cigarette for her young son.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

On Tuesday morning, President Trump tweeted about some favorable economic numbers, claiming that annual household income is up, unemployment is low, and housing prices are high.

Now, just imagine how much better those numbers would be if the country wasn't mired in an economy-killing trade war with China, bleeding out trillion-dollar-a-year debts, and didn't suffer from chaotic leadership in the Oval Office?

At the end of tweet, came an odd sentence, "Impeach the Pres."

Keep Reading Show less

October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

Keep Reading Show less