Without major gravitational forces or oxygen, racing in space sounds near impossible, in theory. But with these ten concepts, we could probably figure it out.
Let low gravity decide the length of each race!
When the flag drops, go. When the flag hits the ground, the race is over.
Without air, aerodynamics would be a waste. I would miss Earth cars’ big wings, but I guess we’ll all just have to learn to appreciate the different physics that are at hand in low gravity.
If weight and packaging aren’t much of a factor the shape of a lunar racer would likely be a very wide and flat form factor with no aero (fairings, spoilers, wings, etc.) Depending on the rules, electric motor is probably going to be your primary propulsion, but any respectable racing series is going to take advantage of the lack of atmosphere and low gravity with jumps spanning hundreds of meters. For that type of race, attitude jets or reaction wheels would be necessary to help the driver/pilot spot their landing over the perhaps minutes long hang time. Tires would likely be stiff with huge sand paddle type attachments to combat the limited tractive effort available in the regolith with such low gravity. All wheel drive would be ideal.
Ever watched a crashed ice competition? That stuff is like cocaine-infused speed skating mixed with motocross style jumps and rallycross-esque contact, on ice. Let’s put it in space!
I would love to see a highly mobile multi-thruster space suit style racing through obstetrical courses made from abandoned space stations. Like Red Bull’s Crashed Ice, but in space.
The suite would be highly articulated and fitted with multi-directional trust nozzles at each major joint. Instead of just going down a hill filled with obstetrical, they would weave through a set course holographically projected through and around derelict space station or space ship. The moving debris would add an additional obstacles.
For the fans there would be mobile cameras as well as cameras mounted on the suits and throughout the station/ship. To make things extra interesting, the suits could be equipped with grappling hooks to increase angular momentum around tight corners or to pull debris into/out of the flight lines of the course itself.
Getting an internal combustion engine working in space would be a massive pain. Electricity it is! Just set up some solar panel charging stations and you could be on your way with your first space motocross race.
As much as I like thinking about making an IC engine work in space, I think the best bet is electric dirt bikes. The Zero DS is a good starting point. Just wear a ruggedized space suit that can take some abuse in a fall and you’re good to go!
Motocross races would be so much fun in low-gravity. Ripping across the lunar landscape pulling super-fly, quintuple backflips out of craters or gnarly hillclimbs up Olympus Mons and Dakar-style rallies on Mars.
Suggested By: Nonster, Photo Credit: Zero Motorcycles
Don’t want to go flying everywhere? Space slot car racing could be the answer.
If you don’t want to go with the slot car racing idea, you’ll probably need to figure something out for the whole lack of downforce issue. This reader has us covered.
Downforce would be needed, like little rockets facing skyward on the front and rear of the vehicle. They can be controlled by flappy paddles behind the steering wheel, thereby making flappy paddles less gaudy. It would be interesting how much air a vehicle can catch while hitting a 3 foot jump at 80+ mph.
We’re in luck! Europa, one of Jupiter’s many many moons is covered in ice and is also known to have one of the smoothest surfaces of any planet-like object in the whole solar system. Might need to get those studded Nokians out of storage sooner than you thought.
Don’t tell me the boys at NASA haven’t already thought about this. If price were no object, imagine sending a few more Mars rovers to space and creating an open RC rally league! Maybe just beef the fragile, lightweight rovers up a bit.
If they did RC rallies on Mars with rovers, like Curiosity it’d be cool.
We know there’s a delay of almost 14 minutes for information to travel from earth to Mars and another for it to travel back. So if you instruct your rover to go a certain path, it will do so and it will take you almost 28 minutes to know if it worked and wether something went wrong or not (like the rover rolled over, got stuck or ran into a ditch).
The rovers could be all equal, and it could work similar to a stage rally where all start in the same place, at different times. The race would rely on strategy and luck. There would be mainly two strategies: you could give instructions in advance, but run the risk of having an accident and losing your rover, or give fewer instructions to be safe, but lose 28 minutes every time to get more information.
Suggested By: Hermann, Photo Credit: NASA
We’ve already established that big wings and aero devices aren’t really necessary in no-atmosphere environments. A suit, a hydrogen-electric power system, and a purpose-built suspension with wheels—according to this reader, that’s pretty much all you’ll need.
Simplify and add lightness, yo. It may not be the end-all-be-all anymore, but in the beginning stages it was THE key to winning.
So: Yes compressed gas tanks, but no nitrogen. The cabin is kept at low pressure pure O2, just like most spacecraft. The partial pressure of O2 is the same as it is on earth at sea level, so you’ll breath fine, but no N2. So the walls of the cabin can be made thinner, because they don’t have to deal with nearly as much pressure. Thinner is lighter. That is if the driver isn’t just in a pressure suit with a breathing gas feed. Which he would be for mass reasons alone, because then you can ditch the entire (very heavy) pressurized cabin.
The O2 is also useful for the engine, which is a fuel cell to electric system, outputting water, electricity, and a buttload of torque. Also, Hydrogen is the best possible fuel, from a gravimetric perspective (It’s light, and has a lot of energy). That makes a difference if it’s an endurance race.
The water from the fuel cell exhaust would be passed over the electric motors for cooling before being released at the back of the racer, where it would obviously freeze. Get in front, and the people behind you lose traction. Bonus!
Remember how I said we’d ditch the pressurized cabin? We ditch the entire bodywork of the racer for the same reason. Aerodynamics is pointless: THERE’S NO AIR. So downforce is limited. The entire thing would be a roll-cage tube chassis with the motors mounted by the wheels, the fuel cell low slung in the chassis, the tanks probably built into the chassis (Compressed gas tanks are strong, use ‘em structurally!), and a carbon fiber tub under the driver.
And that’s it. No windshield, no body work, just the bare minimum to keep mass down.
In other words:
SPACE GO KARTS!
With the stage rallying done here on Earth, drivers are always trying to avoid trees, rocks, and other obstacles while driving their cars the limit. Let’s try that, but with high-powered spacecraft through an asteroid belt.
I’ll leave the safety factor for you guys to figure out.
Suggested By: Brian Silvestro, Photo Credit: NASA
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