Off-Roading with a Lunar Twist

The engineers at Johnson Space Center in Houston have designed a new kind of Vehicle. It has no windows, doors or even seats. Then again, it is made to be driven on the moon.

Although this isn't something I would expect to see at a car dealership anytime soon, it is still an amazing step in specialized design. It is also a huge step toward NASA's goal of having a Lunar Outpost on the Moon by 2020.

"To be honest with you, it was scary when we started," said Lucien Junkin, robotics engineer and design lead for the new lunar rover. "They tasked us last October to build the next generation rover and challenge the conventional wisdom. The idea is that, in the future, NASA can put this side-by-side with alternate designs and start to pick their features."

Since you have to build from the ground up, the first thing decided upon was the number of wheels. From previous tests, 6 was found to be the ideal number. Next came suspension and steering. Since the moon is bumpy and uneven, each wheel has its own independent suspension system.

The team also introduced "Crab Steering." Each wheel can be turned any direction independently of the others. Since trying to check you blind spot in a space-suit is a little more than difficult, the rover has a system to rotate the driver a full 360 degrees.

NASA is still in the process of deciding which designs they will be using, but these do seem promising.

"One small skid for man, one giant powerslide for mankind"

HatTip : NASA

George Delozier
Automotive Innovations