Surface Vehicle


Martian Terrain
Lunar Rover
Size and Composition
Modular Trailer System 
Communication and Navigation

Safety Measures

  The first step in wheel design was deciding on an appropriate clearance for the rover. We chose 0.4m as the best compromise between the need for high ground clearance and the need to minimize wheel size and torque requirements. Originally a higher clearance was wanted to allow the vehicle to travel over more of the rocks scattered over the surface, but we settled on 0.4m since we can rely on the astronaut operator to steer around larger hazards.
Inflatable Wheels
Courtesy of NASA
  Rather than depending on more rigid alternatives, we propose applying an extension of the inflatable technology currently being developed at JPL. Though not finalized in design, inflatable wheels were chosen because they are  portable, easily changed (seal the replacement wheel onto the axle and inflate), and are both lightweight and durable. More research into the appropriate materials and precise shape of these wheels will be developed as the rest of the mission progresses over the next decade. Inflation will be provided by a solid-to-gas reaction similar to that used in automobile air bags. The reaction pellets are more easily transported and more reliable than pre-pressurized gas canister or a mechanical pump. If the inflatable wheel technology has not progressed to a sufficiently advanced and reliable stage in time for the mission, then traditional tread-enhanced hollow metal wheels will be used.  
Lunar Rover Wheels
Courtesy of NASA


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Comments and questions to Last updated: 10 December, 2000