Ultimate Off Road Race—-The Lunar 10,000

The arguments about reasons to go to the moon will continue until people start making a profit on site without ambiguity. A profit that doesn’t depend on the taxpayers and their chosen elected changing their minds. Most of us think in terms of “useful stuff”. Water, building materials, oxygen and such. I have noticed (as hard as I try not to) that it is not the necessities that get people pumped up. It is the frills. Sports, jewelry, cruises, and vacationing in general are much higher profile than what I am normally interested in, not to mention, enormously profitable. A wise friend of mine once said “If you want to make a living, give people what they need, but if you want to get rich, give them what they want.”

So an attraction on the moon that is mostly delivered in electrons to the customers, and have them begging for more. There are some sports events that take a few minutes or hours per game, but games are weekly for months. And seasons can trace back decades to over a century of history.  There are “reality” shows that go on season after season. And endless television shows that stay on for over a decade.

I suggest an event that would be unique, challenging, and very hard to predict. Circumnavigating the moon on the ground would be close enough to 10,000 kilometers for purposes of hype. All off road as there are no roads. An east to west course chasing the sun with a start just after sunrise. 28 checkpoints that represent the distance that must be traveled daily (24 hours, earth day) to make it back to the finish line before sundown. Other than the checkpoints, navigation is your problem.

There will have to be some rules such as no suborbital hoping between checkpoints. Other than that though, rules should be as simple and straightforward as possible. Cameras on at all times. No sabotaging competitors. Sportscaster interviews at each check point. And so on.

First race might be a single daredevil proving it could be done, winning the prize money by completing and surviving. Check points could be landers with com and supplies. Or perhaps sportscasters would hop ahead to cover the laps which would be on the order of 400 kilometers each. Get people excited enough to prove it on pay-per-view, and it might just expand into a major annual event.

Byproducts would be better transportation technology on airless/inhospitable planets. Considerable  exploration of the surface in a band perhaps 100 km wide around the whole planet. The possibility of a lot of people getting interested in more than one planet.

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I do construction for a living and aerospace as an occasional hobby. I am an inventor and a bit of an entrepreneur. I've been self employed since the 1980s and working in concrete since the 1970s. When I grow up, I want to work with rockets and spacecraft. I did a stupid rocket trick a few decades back and decided not to try another hot fire without adult supervision. Haven't located much of that as we are all big kids when working with our passions.

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About johnhare

I do construction for a living and aerospace as an occasional hobby. I am an inventor and a bit of an entrepreneur. I've been self employed since the 1980s and working in concrete since the 1970s. When I grow up, I want to work with rockets and spacecraft. I did a stupid rocket trick a few decades back and decided not to try another hot fire without adult supervision. Haven't located much of that as we are all big kids when working with our passions.
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18 Responses to Ultimate Off Road Race—-The Lunar 10,000

  1. peterh says:

    By my reckoning, that’s about 15km/hour, not accounting for rest breaks. Over unpaved routs that should be doable, but needs drivers to operate in shifts.

  2. Andrew Swallow says:

    I suspect that on the Moon the roads would have to be made first. Cavities may need bridging and large rocks moving.

  3. Ruben Nunes says:

    The delay is not too bad, something similar could be done from earth. I think people would pay good money to remotely control lunar rovers. Put two of them there and call it Formula Luna. Could be an early revenue stream to finance on site rover mechanics as the beginning of a lunar economy, and continue from there…

  4. johnhare john hare says:

    No roads. It would cost a large fortune to build a road around the moon. Possibly in a century or three. Navigate around cavities and rocks. Part of the challenge that there is no hard route except for the check points.

    Iditarod and Tour de France come to mind as extended races.

  5. Jim Davis says:

    I’m guessing you feel the Rocket Racing League just wasn’t ambitious enough.

  6. johnhare John Hare says:

    Plenty ambitious enough This is more of a fanciful thought about something that could happen decades from now. Anyone that invested this year would bring to mind the old expression about a fool and his money.

  7. Miles Mutka says:

    On airless, slowly rotating planets, instead of settling down into a base, one alternative is to keep moving like nomads, forever just following the daylight (or twilight on Mercury). You can even do it nearer the poles, with a shorter round trip. But can you call it settlement if you keep moving constantly?

  8. gbaikie says:

    200 km radius:
    1256.6 km circumference

    29.5 earth day lunar day
    1256.6 km / 29.5 = 46.6 km traveled in 24 hours

    Mercury day is 176 Earth days
    [it’s year is 88 days]
    176 / 176 = 7.14 km per day

    So have railroad tracks [probably wide tracks] which are
    1256.6 km long. And tracks and things around tracks is the settlement.
    And the train is 1/2 a day long or 1256.6 km / 2 = 628.3 km long.
    The train could be just solar panels.
    Or train could also be place to make things which require a lot
    electrical power usage and/or people could live on train.
    Of course other things on train would be shaded by solar panels unless that
    part of train doesn’t have solar panels.

    The train could also shade large area sunlight causing region to always be shaded
    or be night time. And anyting on sun side of tracks could shade the train of sunlight.

    The shade region could useful in terms passive refridgeration.
    And could good place to live- heating and lighting living areas are not much of problem
    and you always have night sky. And for Mercury it begign constant thermal environment- always cold
    unless it is heated.
    In terms of solar panels on train, you wasting solar panels by having them spend any time in the night
    and they also a constant thermal environment- hot, unless cooled.
    They can be cooled with water, and warmed water used to warm living areas in inside of tracks [shaded area].
    So train could import say 10 C water, and use it to cool panels to 50 C, and 50 C water heated to drive steam engines and hot water exported from train [to be use for heating buildings].

  9. Miles Mutka says:

    You could clear a kind of dirt road if you go around the same way many times. But a railroad might not be a great investment on the moon. Thermal expansion is a big problem for railways on Earth, and the temperature variance is much higher on surface of the moon. Then there is the problem of meteor damage. No, I think if you want to go massive, bring your own tracks/treads with you, like a tank. Then you can also vary your route and explore.

  10. gbaikie says:

    In polar region of the Moon or Mercury the sun never gets very high above the horizon and doesn’t warm the level surface by much. A vertical surface gets same amount of energy as level surface at equator [120 C with Moon- Mercury much higher].
    Roughly I would say if want rails to be cold and remain cold, it would easy to do.
    You might want the rails to remain at higher temperature around 150 K (-123.15 C) [or warmer]. At temperature around 150 K, the rails cool slowly and require little energy to warm them to 150 K.
    The train cars would have waste heat that could warms the rails [this particularly true if rails were designed to be quite cold- say, as cold as 100 K].
    A blackbody at 100 K radiates 5.67 watts per square meter. At 150 K : 26.5 watts
    200 K: 90.7 watts and 250 K: 221.5 watts per square meter,
    And surfaces which not blackbody surface radiate less heat.
    Aluminum works pretty good at cryogenic temperatures [can be stronger when colder- though not sure if this case if as cold as 50 K or 100 K]
    Also a meter below the surface of Moon has constant temperature- even in equatorial regions.
    Roughly I think if wanted to keep rails as warm as 250 K [+/- 20 K] this would require too much energy to keep them this warm and don’t think waste cars from train cars would have much warming effect upon them. and if waste heat from cars didn’t have much warming effect on rails at 100 K and material used was strong enough at this temperature, then perhaps that would be to temperature to design them to be at: 100 K {within a range of +/- 20 K}.
    One also add solar energy by have reflector on sun ward side of tracks- say 5 meters wide and elevated by 1 meter high which reflect sunlight [which otherwise hit ground] onto to solar panels of train [shading the ground and rails below the train].

    Anyhow, I didn’t get around to figuring out amount power one could get.
    628.3 km long per meter high: 628,300 square meter.
    Say 20%, 1360 = 272 watts of electrical per square meter
    628,300 x 272 = 170,897,600 watts per 1 meter high and if
    10 meter high: 1,708,976,000 watts. Or 1.7 million Kw.
    If electrical power was worth $.01 per kw hour
    there is 8760 hours a year, that is 148.92 million dollars of power per year.

    And it seems when electrical power on moon costs about $1 kw hour, the lunar economy would start to get interesting, and that price point: 14.8 billion dollars per
    years. But I think such train would happen after the $1 per kw hour price point would have already be reached. Or train would made when electrical power cost has reached 10 to 1 cent per kw hour.

  11. Miles Mutka says:

    I am not at all confident at speculating what the conditions are a meter below the surface anywhere on the moon. That’s one of the reasons to explore.

  12. gbaikie says:

    Well, they did measure it, during Apollo program.
    But they didn’t go to lunar polar regions.

    “”The tunnels offer a perfect radiation shield and a very benign thermal environment,” says Robinson. “Once you get down to 2 meters under the surface of the Moon, the temperature remains fairly constant, probably around -30 to -40 degrees C.”

    There more details and graph at that link

  13. Miles Mutka says:

    Thanks for the link, gbaikie! I did not know that there were measurements made at the time. That is pretty cool: they go as high as 258K, or -15C, if you dig deep enough.

    I know that there were seismographs also in the Apollo program, which is also relevant to any larger construction effort. But it seems they mostly picked up meteor impacts. In fact, if you scatter seismometers around the moon, you could use them to triangulate where the bigger ones hit the ground, then drive to the impact sites when the sunlight comes around.

    Also, it hasn’t been mentioned yet that lack of air makes aerodynamics irrelevant for vehicle design. So a “train” does not need to look like a train on Earth, vehicle shape has not much impact on how efficiently they can be towed.

  14. Warren Platts says:

    Fascinating idea. But I don’t think it could be done with humans without an extensive infrastructure. Presumably, these would have to be RV sized vehicles, thus how are you going to power them? It would probably take a monster solar array to power such a beast. If you had refueling/charging stations along the way, then the RV could be chemical or battery only. But you just upped the expense and complexity by a couple of orders of magnitude.

    On the other hand, this might make a good scientific mission. If you think about it, the main reason rovers on the moon fail is because they have a hard time surviving the night. Thus a mission that strived to stay in the sunlight could make sense. Also, there is no need to limit the timespan to 28 days. If you start at sunrise, you have until sunset to complete the mission. So that gives you 42 days total: Basically 1,000 hours to cover 10,000 km. (Actually, on the Moon, one degree of latitude is almost perfectly equal to 30 km. Thus 360 degrees X 30 km = 10,800 km.) Thus a speed of about 7 mi/hour or about 8.5 minutes per mile–the speed of a human jogger going along at a good clip. However, this is well within the performance envelope of the old Apollo lunar rovers. So it should be doable–IF you could piggyback a big enough solar array!

  15. gbaikie says:

    “On the other hand, this might make a good scientific mission.”
    Hmm. But do it in one of Luna’s polar regions.

    “Actually, on the Moon, one degree of latitude is almost perfectly equal to 30 km. ”
    As is one degree longitude about 30 km.
    So say, 10 degrees longitude from pole: 300 km radius, 600 km diameter,
    1885, make it 2500 km distance traveled.
    10 degrees is outside polar region, but you drive towards pole and drive roughly back to 80 degree [north or south depending on which pole]. And 2500 km is 1/4 of 10,000 km. And 1/4 of 7 mph, call it 2-3 mph as max speed of rover.
    Give max battery power that allows 2 mph for 2 days. Or in terms of distance 2 times 48 hours is 96 miles [150 km] without sunlight.
    Of course unless using a satellite, the far side will not have telemetry. And parts near side could be blocked by terrain.
    And roughly you would be weaving in and out of shadows.
    I don’t have map, but would have to plot a route which allows enough time in sunlight and avoids impassable terrain- or flies over it. Suppose there are a few regions, you need to bridge. And say it’s only about 10 to 20 km distance. Then you could place hoppers at these sites. Or make the rover hop and put rocket fuel at such sites.
    Curiosity was dropped via cables and then cut cables and it flew away. Something similar but it simply drops and rover has small thrusters for soft landing [no cables].
    Anyhow you do this tricky stuff where you telemetry with Earth.
    What did call that thing? Ah, they called it, the descend stage, but maybe got some cuter name for it:

    So have the descend stage able to land and able to have rover drive under it. It lifts rover and drops it say 20 feet from ground, and then descend stage flies back and refuels. Then it flies to site. And rover drive under it, attaches, hops over terrian, drops rover, and flies back to refuel. Repeat.

  16. whitelaughter says:

    Certainly doable. Rather than powered vehicles though, 15kph is well within the limits for push bikes on Earth*; while creating a bike that dealt with the need for protection and cross country practicality would be tricky, the low gravity should make breaking Earthly records easy.

    * Christoph Strasser, who took the Ultra Marathon record in 2014, averaged 16.42 mph (26.425 km/h) riding 3,020 miles (4,860 km) in 7 days, 15 hours, and 56 minutes

  17. johnhare johnhare says:

    I would be fascinated to see the results of testing Lunar bikes. I once read that at 18 mph, 80% of a cyclists effort is used on atmospheric drag and just 20% on mechanical friction. Cross country would be quite challenging. Interesting thought.

  18. whitelaughter says:

    Thank you! Long distance cycling requires a support team, so each cyclist would have some sort of lunar roving vehicle carrying their support; they’d also be essential for dealing with emergencies. I suspect that the rules would have to allow the rover to go ahead of the cyclist to crunch down a path in particularly nasty terrain.

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