MOTOR vehicle giant GM has revealed that they are designing a fleet of lunar rovers for astronauts to drive on the moon.
GM has teamed up with Lockheed Martin — an American aerospace, arms, defense, information security, and technology corporation — for the project.
“GM is a world leader in automobile manufacturing and technology, and Lockheed Martin is a world leader in spacecraft,” said Kirk Shireman, vice president, Lunar Exploration Campaigns at Lockheed Martin.
“The two companies joining forces to build a mobility system on the Moon just makes perfect sense,” he added.
According to a press release by Lockheed Martin, only five percent of the moon has been explored by mankind, thus their mission is rooted in helping astronauts explore the other 95 percent using motorized vehicles.
Of course, when designing a fleet of buggies for space (each one with a different purpose), there are many questions to consider.
“We have to navigate how do we avoid bringing them into contact, how do we avoid putting a dimple in the mesh tires? How do we avoid low-speed contact,” Jeff Nield, Director of Product and Experience at GM Defense said.
Nield also posed concerns regarding traffic and, more importantly, collisions.
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This project is huge, but nothing new for GM, who helped to build the first vehicle for Apollo 15 around 50 years ago.
The rover, named Apollo Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV), allowed astronauts to explore the moon’s surface like never before.
It folded in half, twice, as to fit into a small compartment on the lunar rover, before being unpacked and driven for 4.7 miles across the moon.
Nield explained that GM has been studying the older vehicle extensively to see what they could do with the new-generation models.
“Our job is not to eliminate things that have been proven on the lunar surface. It’s to add stuff in other spaces,” Nield said.
“A lot of vehicles sent have a hard time doing what we call ‘surviving the night,’ we want something that can survive the night — it needs to charge via solar, hibernate, and come back to life,” he added.
According to Nield, the lack of gravity is not the only issue, but also astronauts’ bulky, protective suits and gear.
“We started looking at the best way to control a vehicle without using your feet. The original rover had a T handle – forward, reverse, and steering, almost like a helicopter control. Our team’s going to try to find a more intuitive way to do that,” Nield said.
Whatever GM does land on in terms of design, we can expect that it will change the way humans explore the moon for generations to come.
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