October 25, 2008

NASA Unveils New Lunar Concepts In Arizona

A new lunar rover produced by NASA will allow astronauts to travel longer distances without having to wear spacesuits when they return to the moon sometime in the year 2020. 

Scientists are testing the new vehicle in corner of northern Arizona which has terrain that resembles the surface of the moon.  NASA representatives watched as an astronaut drove the rover over a large lava field.  The battery powered rover can reach speeds of 6 mph and is part of a number of systems and equipment that can be used in lunar explorations that may take place during the next decade. 

NASA wants to build a moon base that may be used as a departure point for manned missions to Mars. 

Rovers that were used for moon exploration in the 1970s looked like jeeps, and the astronauts had to wear spacesuits.  The new vehicles will have a pressurized cab with leather seats and bunks.  The crew of two could travel for up to two weeks and cover a distance of 625 miles.  

If astronauts wanted to leave the rover to collect rocks, they would be able to slip into spacesuits on the outside.  They would leave through special hatches.  Large windows in the rover would allow for extensive views of the surrounding terrain.  Observations could be made in a more comfortable environment independent of the need for a spacesuit.

This new vehicle will be safer and more comfortable than previous lunar rovers.


Image 1: Small Pressurized Rover with a view of astronaut suitports

Image 2: Extra Vehicular Activity spacesuit undergoes testing


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