By Patrick Winn
BANGKOK, Thailand — Most people outside of Asia are unfamiliar with Pocari Sweat, a Japanese sports drink that tastes like Gatorade and resembles, well, sweat.
That might change when Pocari Sweat becomes the first product advertised on the surface of the moon.
In the latter half of 2016, an American firm devoted to space exploration, Space X, plans to land a rover on the moon. Among the rover’s cargo: a can of Pocari Sweat, which will be left on a lunar plain near a giant crater named Bürg. The goal, as stated by Pocari Sweat, is for a modern-day child to someday become an astronaut and eventually drink its contents.
Brace yourself for the era of lunar advertising. Pocari Sweat’s grandiose stunt is likely to become a trend, not an anomaly.
The US firm designing the rover that will plop the Pocari Sweat can onto the moon expects more advertising dollars are coming.
The firm, Astrobotic, tells GlobalPost that ads probably won’t be the “driving force” funding non-governmental space projects. But they’re open to offering “numerous opportunities for marketing on the moon from corporate sponsorship, educational and inspirational marketing opportunities.”
Here’s everything you need to know about the dawn of the lunar advertising era.
Advertising on the moon is cheaper than you might think
The exact cost of Pocari Sweat’s moon ad has been kept secret. Astrobotic has signed a non-disclosure agreement and will not reveal the price.
But the Pennsylvania-based firm’s ballpark fees are public. They charge as little as $1.2 million per kilo of cargo delivered to the moon. Pocari Sweat’s parent company, Otsuka, likely paid much more than that for the ad. They also had to hire a Singaporean firm, Astroscale, to design a custom Pocari Sweat can that can withstand the rigors of space travel.
But it’s doubtful the costs of dropping that can on the moon will reach $8 million, the cost of a single minute of advertising during the Super Bowl.
This Pocari Sweat can is missing a crucial ingredient
That would be moon water.
The moon-bound Pocari Sweat isn’t liquid. It’s a powder like Kool Aid or Tang. To fulfill Pocari Sweat’s goal, in which a future astronaut drinks the can’s contents, scientists will first need to figure out how to extract oxygen from the moon’s surface and process it with hydrogen to create water. (NASA calls this “basic chemistry” and hopes to attempt this by 2018).
The specially engineered Pocari Sweat can also doubles as a time capsule. It will be packed with titanium plates laser-etched with messages from Asian children and members of the public who submit text via smartphone.
This moon mission also includes a pop song produced by mysterious dentists
One song by a hugely popular J-Pop group called “GReeeeN” will be included inside the Pocari Sweat can.
According to the group, based in Fukushima, all four members are dentists. Their faces and identities have been kept anonymous so that their fame won’t undermine their dentistry careers.
Lunar advertising is not going away
Advertisements in space aren’t new. Back in 1997, an Israeli dairy company filmed a milk commercial on a Russian space station; in 2001, Pizza Hut delivered vacuum-sealed pizzas to the International Space Station.
But privatized space explorers — namely Space X — are apt to be even less picky about funding their voyages with ads than government space programs. Astroscale has called the Pocari Sweat ad campaign the “starting point of a new space era where more private companies will be involved in space missions.”
It’s not even clear that Pocari Sweat will be the only product advertised on the moon’s surface in 2016.
Astrobotic wants to take on more advertisers for its voyage next year and expects more “sponsorships” to fall into place closer to the yet-to-be-determined launch date. Companies that can’t afford to hire rovers to gently place products on the moon have another option: a less-precise maneuver called “trans-lunar injection” that simply launches an object from Earth’s orbit in the moon’s direction. The base price starts at $99,000.