Back in the '70s there was nothing cooler than watching Apollo astronauts zip around the lunar surface in slow-motion on TV while buckled up inside a four-wheeled moon buggy. That old Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) was a battery-powered, open cockpit dune-crawler used during Apollo 15, 16, and 17 in 1971 and 1972 before being left behind as the NASA program ended.
Now a new generation of electric lunar ATV is on the drawing board in a team-up of engineers at Lockheed Martin and General Motors to produce a suitable ride for Artemis astronauts hoping for some extended exploration excursions amid the desolate landscape of our lone satellite.
Check out GM's official presentation video below:
"These next-generation rover concepts will dramatically extend the exploration range of astronauts as they perform high-priority science investigation on the moon that will ultimately impact humanity’s understanding of our place in the solar system," Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space, said in an official statement.
This updated lunar rover concept came out of a NASA promotion to solicit ideas for a new unpressurized "Lunar Terrain Vehicle" (LTV) that could be deployed for surveying trips to the moon's south polar region, which is where the upcoming Artemis missions will land as early as 2024 to possibly set up a permanent research outpost.
While the official contracts with NASA have not yet been signed, Lockheed and GM are the definite front-runners to score the lucrative deal and the two storied firms seem confident that their all-terrain buggies will satisfy all of the Artemis program’s needs for an advanced and efficient moon rover.
“We’ve led missions to other planetary bodies for decades, building spacecraft that can survive the high radiation environment, cold temperatures, and yet be very light and very reliable,” said Kirk Shireman, vice president, Lunar Exploration Campaigns at Lockheed Martin in the same statement. “This is what we specialize in, and we are more than capable of meeting and exceeding this challenge for NASA.”
Both corporations have been putting their best brains on the task for this new LTV for the better part of a year and it remains in the very early design phase where many issues and challenges are being smoothed out. Their final plans call for it to be an all-electric vehicle engineered with a considerable level of autonomy and will probably carry a pair of astronauts.
This partnership between Lockheed Martin and GM has some serious connections to NASA both past and present, as Lockheed was involved in the construction of numerous spacecraft over the past decades, including the Orion crew capsule, and GM was instrumental in the design of the original Apollo lunar rover that’s still parked on the moon’s surface at Hadley-Apennine.
“There’s a lot of synergy between our two companies – we complement each other well,” added Jeff Ryder, vice president, Growth & Strategy at GM Defense in the official press release. “The lunar rover designs for extreme off-road environments have a lot of similarities with our tactical military vehicles on the GM Defense side. It’s great to work with a company like Lockheed Martin who has a shared mission of supporting the warfighter.”