Leidos, NASCAR Head to the Moon

Image: Jacqueline Feldscher

Leidos ($LDOS) announced Tuesday that it is partnering with NASCAR on its lunar rover, which it dramatically unveiled by removing a giant purple sheet at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. 

Rover 101: Even though NASCAR is collaborating on the rover, astronauts won’t be whipping around the Moon at breakneck speed under checkered flags. The solar-powered Lunar Terrain Vehicle is expected to travel about 9 mph. And unlike the lunar vehicles used during the Apollo program, the rover was designed to carry men and women of varying heights and weights, reflecting the call for diversity in the astronaut corps. 

What NASA wants: In the agency’s RFP for the lunar rover, NASA stressed the importance of astronauts being able to perform maintenance on the vehicle quickly and easily if something breaks on the lunar surface. The space agency actually asked companies to design a vehicle that suited astronauts can work on “with ‘race car pit stop’ type speed.’”

What NASCAR can teach: Race car experts can offer perspective on some concrete things, like the “fast and agile maintenance” seen at a pit stop, Jonathan Pettus, SVP of aerospace, defense, and civil ops at Leidos subsidiary Dynetics, told Payload. But it also has more abstract lessons to offer on solutions to challenges NASCAR faces that are similar to NASA, including sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and STEM, Pettus said. 

NASCAR is also a master at branding, Pettus said. “Typically a NASCAR car would have lots of sponsors,” he said. “When we drive this the first time on the Moon, there will be countless eyeballs…It’s a real opportunity I think from a commercial perspective.”

So should we expect to see the rover covered with sponsors’ logos on the moon? “I won’t go that far, but potentially,” Pettus said. 

What’s next: Leidos will show off the rover on Sunday during the NASCAR race at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, Pettus said.