Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Lunar billboards

Ah yes, science and marketing have come together yet again, in pursuit of selling things to us.

According to this, Moon Publicity has a patent pending for a new robot which will, wait for it, get sent to the moon, and have fun with its friends building mini sand ridges. Of course, said ridges cast shadows, and will therefore form (if properly planned) giant line drawings.

This revolutionary technology is up for sale, and the starting bid for one of the 44 lunar regions is, well, really low at some US$46,000, although I have no doubt that this will skyrocket. Literally.

But still: is this cool? Inevitable? A mockery of all that makes us human? A travesty, even?

I don't know. I do have a strong 'geek' element which, having read too much Transmetropolitan, thinks this is great.

On the other hand - we have been defined, for countless centuries, by our ability to look up at the moon and stars and use them as a launchpad for our imagination and desire for exploration. How might this change when, upon gazing skywards, we are greeted with a giant 'I'm loving it'? Will we really?

On a more pragmatic note: how is anyone actually going to achieve this? Firstly, you have to get the robots, intact, to the moon's surface. This is not, to date, something which we've had oodles of success. Certainly not regularly.

Also, and as a friend pointed out while I was leaping around exclaiming at the hilarity of it, are the logos meant to be seen with the naked eye? That's going to require an amalgamation of some of those 44 lunar regions, and if that's the case, then a lot of ground has to be transformed. It sounds like one of those school maths problems:
A giant logo measuring ([insert silly number]km2 has to be constructed. Assuming each robot can cover [y]km2 per day, calculate how many robots, and how much money will be burned on, potentially, creating logos only people with telescopes can see.

Finally, they claim that this would spur space travel, but I battle to see how. Robots trundling around in the sand aren't sufficiently interesting for a thriving tourist industry.