The minds at NASA are hard at work putting together the space car astronauts will use once they eventually land on an alien world, and here’s a peek behind the scenes.
Dubbed the Space Exploration Vehicle, the craft is currently a prototype, though the working design features a bubble-like front that provides maximum visibility. The rover has 12 wheels, arranged in six sets of two, and each pair rotates 360 degrees. As Popular Science notes, that means it can turn on a dime and drive sideways as well as forward and backward (which helps with rocky terrain). It also features external cameras for extra navigational visibility.
Looking toward the long term, NASA believes a vehicle of this type could eventually be solar-powered and used by astronauts on Mars. Ideally, it would arrive as part of a pre-supply mission sent ahead of a potential landing party. The vehicle tops out at 10 miles per hour and should be able to run for thousands of miles. You know, in a few decades, once we actually send a landing party.
But it’s the small design cues that really make the difference. The craft features a head-sized bubble on the bottom front, which can be used by astronauts to check out geology under the craft without actually having to exit. But, once they do decide to get out and walk around, the vehicle has a space suit attached to the exterior so astronauts could essentially slip into the suit and take off.
The vehicle would also have the ability to house two astronauts for up to 14 days with sleeping and sanitary facilities. So, in case of long trips (or emergencies), it’d be its own mini-habitat.
It's not quite as sexy as the one from The Martian, but hey, it's a start.