20th November 2023 – (Canberra) Australia’s first-ever moon rover is awaiting an identity, and Australians have been given the unique opportunity to christen the pivotal piece of space machinery. The Australian Space Agency (ASA) has appealed to the public’s patriotic spirit and creative flair to vote for the rover’s name from a shortlist of four entries.
The ASA announced on Monday that over 8,000 name suggestions had been whittled down to a quartet of finalists: Coolamon, Kakirra, Mateship, and Roo-ver. The public voting period commences immediately and will run until the 1st of December, with the winning name to be unveiled on the 6th of December.
The shortlisted candidates were selected by an expert panel of ASA judges, who scrutinised the submissions on relevant criteria such as originality, the cultural significance, and the compelling rationale provided by the suggester.
Each of the nominated names carries a distinct flavour of Australian culture and heritage. ‘Coolamon’ is a reference to a type of container traditionally used by Indigenous Australians for gathering and carrying items. ‘Kakirra’ translates to ‘moon’ in the language of the Kaurna Aboriginal people indigenous to South Australia, the state where the ASA is headquartered. ‘Mateship’ is an Australian cultural term emblematic of a national character trait signifying friendship. Lastly, ‘Roo-ver’ is a playful nod towards Australia’s most internationally recognised animal, the kangaroo.
Following its christening, the rover will be dispatched to the moon under a collaborative agreement with NASA on one of its Artemis missions, which are projected to launch in 2026 or 2027.
In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), the ASA’s head, Enrico Palermo, shed light on the rover’s pivotal mission. He explained, “The rover will land on the moon’s surface via a NASA rocket and begin collecting lunar soil. These samples will then be analysed by a machine designed to assess the feasibility of oxygen extraction.”
He further emphasised the broader implications of the mission, saying, “If we can generate oxygen on the moon, it will herald the beginnings of a sustainable human presence on the moon.”
The rover’s design is currently under development by two consortiums, each of which received funding of 4 million Australian dollars (approximately 2.6 million U.S. dollars) in March. These consortiums comprise a mix of Australian industries, space start-ups, universities, and resource companies tasked with bringing the rover to life.
The naming of Australia’s first moon rover is not just a matter of semantics; it is a symbol of the nation’s burgeoning role in the international space exploration community. As Australians eagerly cast their votes, they are not merely naming a lunar rover; they are etching Australia’s presence on the moon’s surface and beyond.