NASA Asks Car Industry To Help Design the Next Lunar Rover
The LTV is slated to enter service on the Moon in 2024
In case you missed it, we're going back to the Moon by 2024. NASA's Artemis Moon Program aims to land humans, including the first woman to walk the moon, on the lunar south pole in four years, and set up a sustained human presence on the Moon by 2028. But colonizing our closest celestial neighbor will require vehicles that can navigate its rugged terrain and transport astronauts safely across its hostile surface. For that, NASA is counting on experts in the automotive space.
"We are turning to industry to offer us exciting approaches to leverage existing systems here on Earth—including law enforcement, military, or recreational vehicles—that could be modified for use in space to enhance our mobility architecture," said Steve Clarke, NASA's deputy associate administrator for exploration, Science Mission Directorate, in a release.
The agency is asking private-sector experts to submit ideas for a new Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV). This next-gen rover needs to be "human-rated," unpressurized and unenclosed, and, given the Moon's oxygen-free environment, all-electric. NASA says the difference a rover can make in how much area can be explored is massive. On our first trip to the moon with Apollo 11, just over half a mile was traversed. Apollos 15 through 17 increased that to 15 miles thanks to the original lunar rover.
Given NASA's criteria, we can think of a few upcoming models that could fit the bill with a few modifications—the Tesla Cybertruck, GMC Hummer EV, and Rivian R1T being just a few examples. But some automakers have already started working on dedicated lunar rover concepts. Toyota recently worked with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA, Japan's counterpart to NASA) to design a six-wheel-drive, hydrogen fuel-cell-powered rover. Meanwhile, designers at Toyota's luxury arm, Lexus, have let their imaginations run wild with an array of lunar-vehicle concepts.
Could NASA go in a similar direction for its rover design? We don't know, but we're very excited to see what astronauts will be rolling in come 2024. Are you an auto industry expert who wants to throw your hat in the ring? Check out NASA's design request here.