I wouldn’t be surprised if you were not aware that NASA plans to return to the Moon in 2025. America’s space agency has already selected the group of astronauts that will be assigned to the first five Artemis program missions over the course of five years. Those missions will see the astronauts prepare, land on the Moon and begin construction of a space station in lunar orbit. Returning to the Moon also means the production of a new lunar rover to traverse the natural satellite’s surface.
General Motors, Lockheed Martin and Canadian space technology company MDA are partnering to bid for the NASA contract to provide a new rover, the Lunar Mobility Vehicle. Recently, the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company announced that it was joining the bid to help develop the expeditionary vehicle, specifically airless tires.
Chris Helsel, Goodyear’s Senior Vice President of Global Operations and Chief Technology Officer, said in a release:
“Everything we learn from making tires for this extremely difficult operating environment will help us make better airless tires on Earth. This will contribute to our end goal of enabling mobility no matter where it takes place.”
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The Lunar Roving Vehicles used during Apollo 15 through 17 in the early 1970s didn’t feature Goodyear tires, but GM-built tires made out of zinc-coated woven steel strands. The Apollo era LRVs were built collaboratively by General Motors and Boeing. However, Goodyear produced the non-pneumatic tires for the Modularized Equipment Transporter handcart.
Brent Deep, GM’s Chief Engineer of Lunar Mobility, told the Detroit Free Press that the Lunar Mobility Vehicle is expected to be “the most expensive vehicle GM will make,” without confirming the project budget. Deep, who was also Vehicle Performance Manager for the GMC Hummer EV, confirmed that the all-electric, self-driving LMV will use the same Ultium propulsion system as the Hummer and GM’s other electric vehicles.
If selected as the winning bid, the Lunar Mobility Vehicle is scheduled for use during Artemis V in 2027 — two missions after the first 21st century moon landing during Artemis III in 2025. The bid is also seeking to send three LMVs to the Moon for commercial purposes.