Japanese soft drink manufacturer will deliver a can of ‘Pocari Sweat’ to the lunar surface in 2015

The Tokyo-based Otsuka Pharmaceutical (their drinks are sold for their health benefits, but they also develop their own drugs) says it wants to use private space companies to deliver a 1kg ‘Dream Capsule’ in the shape of a can of their most popular soft drink, Pocari Sweat, to the lunar surface.

As well as a small amount of Pocari Sweat in powdered form, the titanium can will also contain numerous disks with “messages by children from all over Asia” etched into their surfaces. “The time capsule contains the childrens’ dreams,” claims the company.

Children who submit their messages to the company will also be given a ‘dream ring’ – a special ring pull that opens up the can. Otsuka say that they hope this will inspire the young people to become astronauts and travel back to the Moon to one day re-read their dreams (and drink some tasty Pocari Sweat as well).

Despite the overt or even extreme commercialism of the project it also has a serious scientific goal, and in addition to delivering Pocari Sweat, Otsuka will be hoping to place the first privately-launched lander on the Moon.

The company will be working with a Pittsburgh-based firm named Astrobotic Technology to send their capsule on the 236,121 mile trip to the Earth’s satellite, with the mission planned to take place in October 2015. Astrobotic will use a Falcon 9 rocket to make the trip – the hopefully-reusable launcher under development by Elon Musk’s private space company, SpaceX.

If Astrobotic and Otsuka manage to complete the mission they’ll also be able to claim the multi-million dollar bounty offered by Google’s Lunar X competition. The search giant announced the prize back in 2007 as a spur for private space companies, offering $20 million to the first team to “land a robot on the surface of the Moon, travel 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send images and data back to the Earth.”

Astrobotic’s involvement in the project is particularly ironic as the company, which reportedly charges upwards of half a million dollars to send items to the Moon, is mainly interested in developing technologies designed to clean up debris in space – instead they’ll be dumping what some will view as trash on the lunar surface.

Although Otsuka’s ambitions sound like the extreme end of the PR stunt spectrum (althoughm how does it compare to projecting a loaf of bread onto a beloved public sculpture?) space advertising has a storied – if controversial – history.

In 1993, an American company named Space ­Marketing Inc proposed launching a 1 kilometre squared illuminated billboard into low orbit, which would have appeared as big and as bright as the Moon in the night’s sky. Public outcry scuppered the plans and the US government subsequently introduced a ban on advertising in space.

However, the legislation was later amended to allow “unobtrusive” sponsorships, a change that meant Pizza Hut was ablle to pull off an advertising coup in 2001 by delivering a vacuum-sealed pizza (it was salami flavour – pepperoni didn’t have the necessary shelf life) to astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Otsuka and Pocari Sweat have also tried this sort of stunt before, and in the same year as Pizza Hut made the ultimate home delivery, the Japanese company created the first high-definition commercial in space, filming two Russian cosmonauts drinking Pocari Sweat and gazing pensively out of the window at the surface of the Earth below. In this context, delivering a can to the Moon’s surface seems like a small step for advertising, rather than a giant leap.


$500,000 for future trips to Mars

SpaceX founder and billionaire Elon Musk is laying out his plans for a colony on Mars, and they are specific.

Musk has mapped out an approximate number of people he imagines living in the Mars colony (80,000), as well as how much a ticket to Mars might cost — $US500,000 ($A477,300).

But first, he said, SpaceX has to design what he calls a “rapid and reusable” rocket that can land vertically. “That is the pivotal step to achieving a colony on Mars,” he told an audience at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London last week.

If SpaceX or another company can’t come up with a rocket that can be reused and refuelled, like we reuse aeroplanes, then he said colonising Mars would be prohibitively expensive.

Musk described creating a rocket that could shuttle between Mars and the Earth as “possible, but quite difficult”.

But that hasn’t stopped him from mapping out a vision of how a colony on Mars might grow. The first step, of course, is getting a manned mission to Mars, which Musk said he thinks SpaceX can do in 10 to 15 years.

Next, he envisions sending 10 people to the Red Planet, along with supplies to build transparent domes, Space.com reports. If the domes are pressurised with the CO2 in Mars’ atmosphere, the colonists could grow Earth crops in the soil on Mars.

As the colony became more self-sufficient, space on the rocket could be filled with people rather than supplies.

And those numbers Musk tossed out are not random. He arrived at 80,000 colonists by estimating that by the time a Mars colony is a reality there will be 8 billion people on Earth. Musk said he thinks 1 in 100,000 people will be ready and willing to take the journey to Mars. As for the $US500,000 ticket — he said that while it’s a lot of money, it is a sum of money that someone who has worked hard and saved carefully might be able to afford.

And as to whether the American taxpayer should contribute to a colony on Mars, Musk says yes. A colony on another planet is life insurance for life collectively, he said during his talk. He added that it would be a fun adventure to watch, even if you aren’t planning on going yourself.