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Moon Race: The Story of One Crazy Design Contest

creatrPosted for Everyone to comment on, 4 years ago5 min read

"Speed has never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary, that's what gets you."
- Jeremy Clarkson -

If you're just dropping in,

you need to know a few things about this story:

  • This is an entry for the Beast 2 Community Engagement Challenge.
  • It will likely take me two or three posts to tell this whole story.
  • A short story I wrote a few days ago takes place on the Moon. It is based on this story.

You may want to read my short story first (LINKED HERE), as it is a teaser leading up to this article. Once you've read it, you've had a sneak peak. Now it's time to hear about the real thing.

More than thirty years ago,

the late, great Omni Magazine ran a contest that I found both fascinating and challenging.

The contest prize was irresistable:

a real, honest to God trip into outer space. Well, at least into Earth orbit. From the Omni article:

"The grand prize for the most ingenious and feasible vehicle will be one ticket on Project Space Voyage, a low Earth orbit tour of our planet, scheduled for launch in 1992. The tour includes a four-day briefing at a resort, an 8- to 12-hour trip, and then two days' debriefing at a resort. Space gear will be provided."

That prize would fulfill one of my lifelong dreams.

The image below is the cropped cover from that Omni Magazine, blaring "Win A Trip To Outer Space (Honest!)"

Note: In order to tell my story, I've included excerpts from Omni under the legal doctrine of fair use, with full attribution to their source.


Omni announces the contest. ~ Source: Omni Magazine

In October, 1986, Omni Magazine ran an amazing design contest.

The challenge was to produce a conceptual design for a racer that could enter and potentially win a race following a circular course designed to visit each of the six Apollo lunar landing sites.


Inspiration for the MagRod Leaper. ~ Image source: Omni Magazine

Contest instructions were detailed and clear.

From Omni Magazine, October 1986:

"To enter the contest, print your name and address on a plain piece of paper and include as proof of purchase the word STARTECH, cut out from atop page 167. In 200 words or less (printed or typed only) describe your vehicle. No drawings, please. No models. You must include in your description the following characteristics of the moon buggy: size; weight; number of occupants it could carry; means of propulsion; top speed, performance capabilities (can it cross crevasses? how large? how steep a slope can it climb?); material of which it is made. You can assume there will be mining and manufacturing facilities on the moon. We know our satellite is rich in aluminum, iron, titanium, silicon, and oxygen. Any or all of these could be used to construct a vehicle."

Wow, this contest was certainly my cup of tea!

I had closely followed all the Apollo missions, desperately wishing that I had been able to go myself.

Crater Mid View

Some lunar highland terrain. ~ Image courtesy of NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

I recall being particularly thrilled while listening to Apollo 12 astronauts Pete Conrad and Alan Bean laughing and joking with one another as they carried out a mission EVA. I thought, "These are my kind of guys. They are clearly having the time of their life."

I knew I was more inventive than the average contestant was likely to be. I might have a real shot at going into orbit!

Carefully following the contest instructions,

I composed a written description that ticked off all the boxes cited in the contest rules. To this day, I believe what I described in less than 200 words would have been a lunar race-winning vehicle.

I hope you'll return for the next installment of my story, where you'll find a verbal description of my outlandish racer design.

~To Be Continued~


The MagRod easily negotiates rough lunar terrain. (CLICK for an amazing panoramic closeup) ~ Image courtesy of NASA.

Articles In This Series

Important Note: My articles often contain hot links to supplemental information. While they aren't essential, you may find added value by following them. Most images also link to useful or related information or articles.

As a member of the Whaleshares community, I promise to take your comments, both positive and corrective, very seriously.

I'm especially interested in meeting makers. If you make stuff, I would love to read about it and encourage you in any way that I can... Just say "Hi" in a comment, and show me what you're working on; I welcome your links!

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