First Private Lunar Lander Could Be Sports Drink Ad

That's one small bottle of sports drink, one giant leap for marketing agencies.

A contender for the first private lunar lander could be carrying a bottle of a popular Japanese beverage. An aerospace robotics firm, Astrobotic, announced this week it would carry a bottle of "Pocari Sweat" sports drink aboard a rocket to the moon as early as October 2015.

The Pittsburgh-based company is one of many teams competing in the Google Lunar XPrize - a $40 million race for private companies to land unmanned vehicles on the moon. Half the sum will be awarded to the first successful touchdown.

Eighteen teams remain in the competition but Astrobotic has the earliest scheduled launch date, meaning the first non-government spacecraft to touch down on an extraterrestrial world could double as a sports drink advertisement. The beverage will be contained in a time capsule given to Astrobotic by another private space enterprise, Astroscale of Singapore.

But don't expect free shipping: A buyer's guide on Astrobotic's website says sending a payload with them can cost up to $2 million.

Pocari Sweat advertises itself as a sports energy drink and is found across Asia and the Middle East. And this would not be the product's first launch beyond Earth's gravity. In 2001, Pocari Sweat was sent to the International Space Station to shoot a video advertisement.

Astrobotic was one of five finalists selected today to split $6 million in rewards by the XPrize. The teams were selected for reaching milestone achievements in the contest. In September, a panel of judges will evaluate whether the teams had overcome sufficient technical hurdles to earn the extra cash.

India's Team Indus, Germany's Part-Time Scientists, Japan's Hakuto and U.S.-based Moon Express Inc. are also in the running.