The Inevitable Convergence of Motorsports and Aerospace

Motorsports are typically associated with wheeled terrestrial vehicles – but what does the rapidly-approaching future hold in store for the world’s most popular forms of racing?

Motorsports have always been a grab-bag of offerings for their audiences – part race and part technical showcase, manufacturers and constructors have lined up for over a century to test the mettle, their drivers, and machines in a bid for dominance. The demands of transportation have been reflected in the realm of Motorsports since their inception, and that won’t ever change.

Yes, the elite level of performance exhibited out on the track is never rivaled out on civilian roadways -unless by the handful of brain-dead street racing morons that insist on putting their lives and those around them at risk – but the testbed of auto racing is far from an isolated incident. Many of the technological innovations such as traction control saw their birth out on the track before they became a standard in consumer car production.

The push for lessened environmental impact in a world that is increasingly distraught over the potentially catastrophic repercussions of climate change has manifested in the form of Formula E. The all-electric open-wheel series has given the fledgling electric car market a platform to push the limits of energy cell technology to new heights. Environmentally-friendly vehicles are undoubtedly the most important step forward to securing a healthy and stable climate for the planet – but what does the future beyond hold in store?

The question of off-world colonization for humanity is not a question of “if” but of “when”. With the success of privatized space travel in the form of companies like SpaceX, a future where humans can make consistent trips to the moon to establish a forward base is inevitable. As such, the price and production of the vehicles needed to ferry our oxygen-depended sacks of walking and talking meat safely across the cosmic void will need to fall to levels that open the option to the average Joe.

It’s easy to understand how such a future would seem better relegated to an Asmiov novel rather than something only several decades away – and the aerospace industry will need to take an active part in changing the public’s perception of what space-travel means and just how feasible it is. And the best way to do that? The same way that car manufacturer’s build brand identity and loyalty: sporting.

Admittingly, the concept of “rocket races” is very far-fetched, but the focus would most certainly be on a form of terrestrial movement – either lunar or Martian. Once humanity has acquired the capabilities to colonize the lunar or Martian surface safely and reliably, the sports of old will have to do some serious adjusting to retain the attention of a now skyward-looking civilization. In a world where one can be born on one planet and potentially live their life on another… well, entertainment is sure as hell going to need to make a pivot.

Falcon 9 lifts EchoStar XXIII into orbit.

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Organizations like NASA have long had relationships with the likes of Boeing, Ford, and other engine manufacturers and vehicle constructors. After all, when you’re focusing on building a vehicle to withstand the rigors of space-travel, you’re going to need the best minds working on solving the problem.

There’s no telling what the vehicles of the future will look like. Will tires still retain their position as one of man’s greatest and most practical inventions? Or will they be replaced by some form of magnetic or anti-gravitation propulsion? Only time will tell, but only one thing is for certain: Formula One better get working on that Z-axis if they want to remain on top for centuries to come.