J.J. Abrams is no stranger to science fiction. In addition to Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Trek Into Darkness, the director also has Super 8 and two episodes of Lost (a series which he executive-produced) under his belt; nearly half of his directing filmography is comprised of sci-fi endeavors. Now, Abrams is turning to real-life science fiction.

His new project, Moon Shot, is a nine-episode documentary web series that follows 16 teams of entrepreneurs as they compete to engineer a spacecraft, land it on the moon, and successfully transmit HD video footage back to Earth. 

 Imagine changing a DSLR lens in a cloud of fifteen tons of corrosive cosmic material and you'll begin to understand the uphill battle these remote photographers are facing.  

Each team must develop its own rover and camera technology. Image capture on the moon is a notoriously daunting task: surface temperature can fluctuate from -412 F to 212 F, not to mention the presence of solar radiation and that nefarious moon dust, all of which could potentially harm equipment. Imagine changing a DSLR lens in a cloud of fifteen tons of corrosive cosmic material and you'll begin to understand the uphill battle these remote photographers are facing.  

Team Hakoto from the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Tohoku University has devised a hyperbolic mirror camera system that enables its rover to capture 360-degree images. According to the team's official report, their camera eliminates the need for a pan/tilt mechanism and motors. "A front mounted, motor-less MEMS laser scanner was selected for mass reduction qualities," the report reads. "A virtual reality interface is used to allow one operator to intuitively change focus between various narrow targets of interest within the wide set of fused data available from these sensors.​"

Google's Lunar XPRIZE competition "aims to incentivize entrepreneurs to create a new era of affordable access to the Moon and beyond." A pool of $30 million in total cash will be awarded to the winners. 

The teams profiled in Moon Shot range from German hackers backed by Audi to a father and son working out of a bedroom in Vancouver to a group of IT specialists in India. Though it is a technology competition, the series is character-driven, focusing on the contestants' motivations and sacrifices rather than merely the specifics of their technological innovations.

"It's about more than just going to the moon," a contestant says in the trailer. "It's about how everything is possible."

Abrams' production company Bad Robot will co-produce the series with Academy Award-winning filmmaker Orlando von Einsiedel (Virunga). Just earlier today, it was announced that Bad Robot has instated a diversity quota in response to #OscarsSoWhite. The company pledges to "work with its agency partner CAA and studios Warner Bros and Paramount to ensure women and minorities are submitted for writing, directing and acting jobs for the company in direct proportion to their representation among the US population."

Moon Shot premieres for free on Google Play March 15 and on YouTube March 17.  

Here's the description from the YouTube channel:

This character-driven, emotional, awe-inspiring series of 9 short films will follow a selection of the teams currently racing to complete their missions. It will explore the lives of their charismatic, quirky members, the sacrifices they have made to get to where they are today, and crucially, what drives them on this incredible journey.

We are eager to see whether someone with Abrams' track record releasing a series on YouTube will further legitimize the site as a platform for serious independent creators.