The new generation of lunar rovers under development, say the companies, could be used by NASA Artemis astronauts – who will explore and conduct scientific experiments using a variety of rovers – to extend and enhance the exploration of the surface of the Moon. NASA sought industry approaches to develop a Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV) that will enable astronauts to explore the lunar surface farther than ever before.
The LTV is the first of many types of surface mobility vehicles needed for NASA’s Artemis program. To support NASA’s mission, say the companies, they will develop a unique vehicle with innovative capabilities, drawing on their unparalleled engineering, performance, technology and reliability legacies. The result may allow astronauts to explore the lunar surface in unprecedented fashion and support discovery in places where humans have never gone before.
Lockheed Martin will lead the team by leveraging its more than 50-year-history of working with NASA on deep-space human and robotic spacecraft.
“This alliance brings together powerhouse innovation from both companies to make a transformative class of vehicles,” says Rick Ambrose, executive vice president, Lockheed Martin Space. “Surface mobility is critical to enable and sustain long-term exploration of the lunar surface. These next-generation rovers will dramatically extend the 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.”
GM, for its part, says it will use autonomous technology to facilitate safer and more efficient operations on the Moon.
“General Motors made history by applying advanced technologies and engineering to support the Lunar Rover Vehicle that the Apollo 15 astronauts drove on the Moon,” says Alan Wexler, senior vice president of Innovation and Growth at General Motors. “Working together with Lockheed Martin and their deep-space exploration expertise, we plan to support American astronauts on the Moon once again.”
Previously the automaker manufactured, tested and integrated the inertial guidance and navigation systems for the entire Apollo Moon program, including Apollo 11 and the first human landing in 1969. GM also helped develop the electric Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), including the chassis and wheels for the LRV that was used on Apollo’s 15-17 missions.
Unlike the Apollo rovers that only traveled 4.7 miles (7.6 kilometers) from the landing site, the next-generation lunar vehicles are being designed to traverse significantly farther distances to support the first excursions of the Moon’s south pole, where it is cold and dark with more rugged terrain. Autonomous, self-driving systems will allow the rovers to prepare for human landings, provide commercial payload services, and enhance the range and utility of scientific payloads and experiments.
A Lockheed Martin-GM rover would be able to preposition itself autonomously near a landing site prior to the astronauts’ arrival, and astronauts would have the ability to task the rover from the Human Landing System or the orbiting lunar Gateway to conduct science operations without a driver. This enables NASA to fit more science into a smaller amount of time, say the companies, and allows us to uncover the critical information that the other 95% of the lunar surface may hold.
“These next-generation rover concepts,” says Ambrose, “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.”
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