'Mateship' or 'Kakirra'? Australia turns to public to name its 1st moon rover

An artist's illustration of a moon rover with gold wrapping and a set of 6 wheels on the lunar surface.
Artist rendition of the Australian Lunar rover that will launch to the moon as early as 2026 in partnership with NASA’s Artemis program. (Image credit: Dept. of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources)

The Australian Space Agency has revealed its shortlist of names for the country's first lunar rover — and you can help choose the winner by casting your vote. 

In partnership with NASA, the agency's Australian-made, semi-autonomous rover is slated to launch to the moon as part of a future Artemis mission by as early as 2026. The rover will have the ability to pick up lunar rocks and dust, then bring the specimens back to a moon lander operated by NASA.

More than 8,000 entries were initially submitted to Australia’s rover-naming competition, which began in September. And now that the agency has narrowed down the final four candidates — "Coolamon," "Kakirra," "Mateship" and "Roo-ver" — the public is invited to vote on their favorite. Polls will remain open online through Dec. 1. 

Related: NASA's new moon car for Artemis astronauts will be inspired by Mars rovers 

The lunar rover is part of Australia’s Trailblazer program under the country’s Moon to Mars initiative. 

"Drawing on Australia's world-leading remote operations expertise, the rover will collect lunar soil, known as regolith,” officials said in a statement announcing the naming competition. Such regolith is expected to contain oxygen in the form of oxide. "NASA will attempt to extract oxygen from the sample. This is a key step towards a sustainable human presence on the moon." 

And now, for more on those intriguing name options.

Coolamon, which is a multi-purpose tool used for gathering and carrying, represents Australia’s connection to the land and symbolizes the balance between utility and respect for the environment, mirroring the country’s approach to space exploration. It also captures the essence of Australia's indigenous heritage, according to the competition's website.

Kakirra, meaning "moon," as translated from the Kaurna region in Adelaide, signifies this major milestone for Australia in developing a lunar rover.

Mateship is a nod to the country’s culture and the camaraderie of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). "Whether you're young or old, live in the city or in the outback, we all possess this indescribable trait. Let's say 'G'Day Mate' to new horizons and the lunar surface," officials said in the description.

Lastly, Roo-ver is a fun reference to the country's iconic animal, the kangaroo. The kangaroo is also part of the Australian Coat of Arms. Roo-ver conveys the Aussie spirit and the country’s "next leap"into space.

Voting is open to the public online through Dec. 1. The rover’s official winning name will be announced on Dec. 6 

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Samantha Mathewson
Contributing Writer

Samantha Mathewson joined Space.com as an intern in the summer of 2016. She received a B.A. in Journalism and Environmental Science at the University of New Haven, in Connecticut. Previously, her work has been published in Nature World News. When not writing or reading about science, Samantha enjoys traveling to new places and taking photos! You can follow her on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13.