Researchers are trying the new vehicle at Moses Lake in Washington this week as part of a series of tests of lunar surface concepts. The high mobility could be important if the truck becomes mired in lunar dust (something which happened quite frequently to the original Lunar Roving Vehicle used during the Apollo 15 through 17 missions in the early 1970s), or if it just needs to zigzag down a steep crater wall. Another situation in which it can be useful is parallel parking at its docking station.
The new vehicle can transport two to four people, and it seems that it will contain tools that will enable researchers to examine and diagnose the moon’s terrain while on the move. Although it is currently only a prototype, the Crew Mobility Chassis might eventually be used on an actual manned mission to the moon. NASA intends to return to the moon around 2020, and decided to start considering unconventional methods of transportation while residing on the moon; after such a long absence, who knows what an astronaut’s needs will be?
TFOT has also covered other lunar related tests conducted by NASA, including the inflatable lunar habitat and the development of a lunar base camp. Both might be used in the planned human return to the moon around 2020. Another related TFOT story is NASA’s 15th annual Great Moonbuggy Race, which features the driving of two-person lunar vehicles across a half-mile course of simulated lunar terrain.
For more information on the Crew Mobility Chassis, see NASA’s website.