The prototype for NASA’s new moon buggy will be part of the inauguration day parade on January 20 when Barack Obama becomes the new president of the US. The space agency is hoping the new president — and the rest of the viewing audience — will be impressed with the new concept for roving across the lunar surface. At the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C., astronaut Mike Gerhardt will show off the rover’s capabilities of gliding smoothly, pirouetting and walking like a crab. Last Friday, NASA had a “test run” of the parade, showcasing the rover in a demonstration at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Watch a video from the Houston Chronicle to see the rover in action. Reportedly, the rover will bring up the rear of the parade and hopefully provide a lasting impression on the new president. Just what can this rover do?
In October 2008, NASA tested the rover and several other new concepts in a desert in Arizona (see related article.) The Small Pressurized Rover, has a module on top of a rover chassis where the crew can sit inside in a shirt-sleeves environment as they drive the vehicle. The wide windows provide a full view for the astronauts, making unobstructed observations easy from inside the rover. NASA is thinking the SPR could be the astronauts’ main mode of transportation on the Moon, and could also allow them the flexibility to work inside of it without the restrictions imposed by spacesuits.
The adaptable vehicle features pivoting wheels that enable crab style movement to help the rover maneuver through difficult spots. Early concepts provide an exercise ergometer that allow crews to exercise while driving and simultaneously charge the vehicle’s batteries. The rover provides spacesuits, easily accessible from inside the rover whenever the astronauts need to get out of the rover.
Top speed is 15 mph, but engineers said it outpaced Hummers, trucks and Jeeps as it crossed lava flows in the Arizona desert.
According to the Houston Chronicle, at the end of the parade when the rover reaches President Barack Obama’s box, Gernhardt will stop the rover, and he and astronaut Rex Walheim, one of two people in white spacesuits attached to the rear of the buggy, will step away from the rover.
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Then, carrying an American flag, he’ll stride several paces toward Obama, halt and salute the new president, ending the parade.
Said Walheim: “I hope he sees that NASA is looking forward, that we have some really exciting ideas on how to handle lunar exploration. I think he may get excited about it, too.”
Source: Houston Chronicle