The Australian Space Agency has opened voting for the name of the country’s first lunar rover which will land on the Moon as part of NASA’s program to establish a more permanent presence on our nearest celestial neighbour.

First announced in 2021, the Australian-made rover will collect lunar regolith (soil) and deliver it to in situ resource utilisation (ISRU) facilities from which NASA will try and extract oxygen to help aid further human exploration.

On Monday, the Australian Space Agency offered its shortlist of four potential names for the rover: Coolamon, Kakirra, Mateship, and Roo-ver.

A coolamon is an Aboriginal dish for carrying and gathering; Kakirra is the Kaurna (Aboriginal people of the Adelaide Plains) word for moon.

Voters have until midnight Friday, 1 December to cast their vote at

People made over 8,000 submissions to the original open callout for names, according to the Australian Space Agency. Some popular names that didn’t make the shortlist included: Matilda, Bluey, Sheila, and Rover McRoverface (a reference to a time when the UK government let the internet pick the name of a research ship).

Head of the Australian Space Agency, Enrico Palermo, said judges were looking for names that “capture Aussie ingenuity, Aussie spirit” and that the agency wanted to give the country’s first lunar rover a title “that’s creative and inspirational”.

The rover project, called Trailblazer, is currently in its first stage which has seen two consortiums of academic and industry partners – Australian Remote Operations for Space and Earth (AROSE) and ELO2 – receive $4 million each to conceptualise and design their rovers.

The Space Agency will then select the winning design that is scheduled to head to the Moon by around 2026.

AROSE director of space programs Dr Newton Campbell said the Moon provides unique challenges for designing mining equipment.

“Lunar regolith is pretty nasty stuff – it’s not like digging up normal dirt here on Earth,” Dr Campbell said.

“Since the Moon has no atmospheric or liquid erosion properties, it’s much sharper than soil particulates here on Earth.”

Extreme variations in temperature require space-age shielding and sensor technologies and the long communications delay requires a high level of autonomy.

“When you’re talking about the Moon, you could be talking about several seconds' delay simply due to the distance from Earth,” he said.

“Additional signal problems can occur based on a number of factors, such as electromagnetic interference caused by solar radiation.”

According to grant documents, the rover has a maximum weight of 20 kilograms and will be no bigger than 30cm tall and 50cm wide. It will need to scoop up regolith and deposit the sharp lunar dirt at nearby ISRU facilities where it can be processed to extract oxygen.

Australia has a small but crucial role to play in NASA’s Moon to Mars venture. The overall project aims to establish a permanent lunar base of operations that will allow the first humans to one day land on Mars.

Extracting oxygen from the Moon’s surface rather than shipping it into space on expensive rocket flights will be critical for maintaining a human presence outside of low-Earth orbit.