Objective moon for car actors

Autonews launch Ferrari Roma Tailor Made (2022): custom supercar on video

We might think about Tesla. But really, no… If a fan hijacked a Cybertruck to make a 3D-rendered lunar rover out of it, then using such a vehicle is out of the question at all. NASA has other plans for the Artemis project. Thus, the only feat of the firm led by Elon Musk is limited to sending a roadster into space with a Starman dummy on board. This was in February 2018. The bolide, which travels between 12,000 and 29,000 km/h and has completed 3,000 revolutions around the Sun, is currently closer to Venus than to Mars. On the other hand, Space X could contribute to a spacecraft that will land on the Moon.

No offense to the geeks, the US space agency doesn’t rely on social media and has released the exact specifications of its Lunar Roving Vehicle (LTV). For example, he collaborated with General Motors on the first lunar rover, called the Moon buggy, which served in 1971 and 1972 as part of the Apollo missions (15, 16 and 17). The American automotive giant was associated with Boeing at the time. Last year, GM and Lockheed Martin (the defense and security giant and aeronautics specialist) announced a partnership to develop new lunar landers for NASA.

General Motors, which entrusted the development of these vehicles to a woman named Crystal Windham, sees this type of mission as the perfect testbed for its Ultium battery technology and its autonomous driving expertise. Good intuition, as the Artemis project aims to have a woman and a person of color set foot on the moon. Note also that GM also developed a robot (Robonaut 2) that helped astronauts on the International Space Station.

See also: Autonomous lunar rover General Motors is ready to replace the Apollo

Airless Tire War

Michelin has developed the Lunar Wheel to equip new lunar vehicles.Credit photo – Michelin

This type of project also provides an opportunity for equipment manufacturers to make themselves known. This is the case, for example, with Goodyear, which supplied the components used on board the Apollo 11 mission capsule in 1969. The American manufacturer has announced that it will supply tires for lunar vehicles developed by GM and Lockheed Martin. It will offer its advanced airless tire technology, which is used on Earth in micromobility and autonomous shuttles in particular.

Unlike the first rovers, which were built for days of use and to travel less than five kilometers from landing sites, the next ones will have to last for years. Future missions will have to travel much longer distances over rough terrain in extreme temperatures (from -173°C to 126°C). Therefore, much more sophisticated tires will be required.

Clearly, competition does not remain dormant. Michelin intends to install its airless wheel on a future lunar rover. Bibendum has joined the consortium formed around Northrop Grumman with AVL (engine specialist), Intuitive Machines and Lunar Outpost. A model of their future rover was unveiled at CES in Las Vegas earlier this year. In the 1990s, Michelin supplied tires for the shuttle. The Clermont brand has also partnered with NASA to develop a lunar wheel to equip research vehicles.

Venturi in the race

General Motors and Lockheed Martin have teamed up to develop lunar vehicles.

Venturi is working on a rover for NASA and SpaceX.Credit photo – Venturi

There is only one (big) step from the Rock to the Moon: the Monegasque Venturi is one of the competitors who decided to take up the NASA challenge. The group, led by Gildo Pastor, has invested heavily in electric vehicles. He developed batteries and then vehicles like the Fetish before focusing on large exploration projects. The group also competes in Formula E. It then decided to expand into space by founding Venturi Lab, a company based in Switzerland dedicated to developing mobility solutions capable of withstanding the extreme environmental conditions on the Moon and Mars. It is led by Antonio Delfino, former head of the chemistry and physics department at Michelin, which developed the airless tire.

To develop its technologies, Venturi Lab is actively collaborating with the group’s headquarters in Monaco, as well as with its US subsidiary (based in Columbus, Ohio) and with startup Venturi Astrolab in California. The main task of the latter is to build a rover for the next NASA and SpaceX lunar missions. Named the Flex, it could carry up to 1.5 tons of material. The goal is to develop batteries and materials that work and withstand extreme freezing temperatures, as well as solar panels, deformable wheels and electrical control systems for vehicles. Please note that Venturi Lab is collaborating with other partners including Thales Alenia Space in France. The structure intends to offer new space technologies to the ESA (European Space Agency) and develop solutions that will ultimately reduce pollution of the earth, sea and atmosphere.

And Europe?

ESA and DLR (German Aerospace Center) have been working on a new generation of lunar rovers for 4 years now. They look more like droids in charge of collecting samples than actual vehicles. These machines were tested in conditions close to lunar, on the slopes of Etna, in Sicily. They will be remotely controlled by astronauts launched into orbit from NASA’s future Lunar Gateway station. From the side of European automakers, cooperation is not expected. In 2003, Renault rolled their Mégane on the moon, but it was fake in the ad.

As for Audi, it has been working with a team of German engineers since 2015 to develop an all-wheel-drive all-terrain vehicle equipped with an autonomous driving system and designed to travel on the moon. Under the name “Scientists in combination”, the structure planned to send this machine in 2017. Missed appointment. There was talk of him landing aboard a Space X rocket in 2021, but the project never came to fruition. In any case, Audi Rover has at least the credit for appearing in film in Alien: Covenant (which partnered with the brand with the rings).

Read also – New Nissan model unveiled and it’s a lunar rover

Asia conducts its programs

General Motors and Lockheed Martin have teamed up to develop lunar vehicles.

Hyundai and Kia want to jointly develop mobility solutions for the Moon.Credit Photos – Hyundai

For their part, Japan’s aerospace agency JAXA and Toyota have decided to collaborate on a vehicle that will be called the Lunar Cruiser. As for the Land Cruiser, well known on Earth, this lunar 4×4 should become a reality within 5-10 years. It will be the only one of its kind to run on hydrogen (which can be produced locally). JAXA wants to install a hydrogen plant on the Moon by 2035. It is expected to be built near the South Pole and will use water ice to produce oxygen and hydrogen.

More surprisingly, Suzuki is a partner in Japan for the HAKUTO-R spacecraft, which claims to be the world’s first commercial lunar exploration program. The project, led by Tokyo-headquartered ispace, needed the experience of this small manufacturer specializing in the development and design of compact cars. Suzuki will support the structural development of the HAKUTO-R lunar lander.

And Japan may be followed by Korea. The Land of Morning Calm, which successfully launched its first rocket, is paving the way for partnerships with Hyundai and Kia. The group has signed agreements with six research institutes in South Korea and has established an advisory body to develop mobile solutions for lunar surface exploration. After diversifying into air taxis and the metaverse, not to mention robots, Hyundai decided to take things a step further.

Shortly speaking

Several car manufacturers are currently developing vehicles that can travel on the lunar surface. NASA plans to send humans back to the moon by 2025.

Laurent Mayo

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