While we were doting over the monstrous new presidential limo dubbed "The Beast," NASA was busy rolling out it's latest wheeled creation at the end of the inaugural parade. We've seen the new buggy before, but this is the first time we've seen the new design out on public roads.
The rover, dubbed the Lunar Electric Rover, or LER for the acronym-obsessed NASA, is intended for use in the planned moon mission which at this point may be in political and financial jeopardy. In any case, the new rover is awash in new thinking and brings the moon buggy concept into the modern age. This new machine is based around a pack of high power lithium ion batteries intended to provide power for all functions on board. The articulated design allows for double the battery capacity and the always reassuring system redundancy NASA builds into everything. Underneath are twelve tweels on six individual electric motors, able to rotate 360 degrees and provide extreme maneuverability in all situations. The buggy is even equipped for extravehicular control so astronauts can move it around while on moon walks.
On top of the platform is a pressurized module built to ferry two astronauts in comfort, providing a pressurized work environment while leaving the extravehicular moon suits outside. The design is intended to drastically reduce suit-up time and minimize overall gas losses during transfer while allowing the life support systems on the suits to act as backups in case of emergency.
At the side is an air lock porthole designed to mate up with other modules like on surface habitats or ascent vehicles. The craft is rounded out with a mission specific work package interface which allows the LER to be outfitted with winches, backhoes, cables and cranes, whatever is needed for the task at hand. Should we ever make another moonshot, we can't wait to see astronauts hooning this baby around the lunar surface, just like the good old days. [Youtube, NASA]