G'day, Moon! Australia wants help naming its lunar rover

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“The Roo-ver has landed.” It may not have the same cachet as the Eagle lander that put humans on the moon, but it might be the name of Australia’s first lunar rover, scheduled to launch on a NASA Artemis mission as early as 2026.

The Australian Space Agency has revealed a shortlist of names for the rover, after whittling down more than 8,000 entries, which no doubt included Moony McMoonFace. The public can vote on which one will be chosen. The four options are Coolamon, Kakirra, Mateship and Roo-ver.

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As a government website explains, Coolamon is an Indigenous word for a multi-purpose tool used for gathering and carrying. The six-wheeled, solar-powered rover will in fact gather a soil sample from the surface and return it to the lander, which will try to extract oxygen from the lunar regolith, a key technology for future lunar missions.

Kakirra is another Indigenous word, this one from the Kaurna people, and it means moon.

Mateship is “a crucial part of Australian culture,” the web site says, whether expressed among the armed forces or as a simple “G’Day Mate” to a friend. This one also ties in nicely with the country’s cheeky branding of its lunar exploration program, “G’Day Moon.”

Finally, Roo-ver takes its name from the iconic kangaroo. As the government notes: “A kangaroo is part of the Australian Coat of Arms and it’s time for Australian science to take the next leap all the way up into space.”

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Voting is open now and closes on Dec. 1. Only Australian citizens were allowed to enter the initial round of naming, but anyone on Earth (and presumably in space) can vote on the final name, which will be revealed to the public on Dec. 6.

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The rover joins an impressive list of vehicles on the moon or in the planning stages. In addition to early successes such as the Soviet Lunokhod robotic rovers and the Apollo lunar rovers (basically a car for astronauts), the moon has recently been visited by Chinese and Indian rovers. Japan has one en route to the moon and another planned, after a failed landing in April.

Canada also has rover plans in the works, and NASA has several new vehicles on the drawing board. Whatever the Aussies’ rover ends up being called, the space community will no doubt deliver a resounding “Good on ya, mate!”

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