NASA probably isn’t sending anyone to hoon around on the moon anytime soon, but that didn’t stop the space agency from developing a new set of tires for the moon buggy. Each tire is made from wire mesh and has 800 springs to absorb impact. They do not go flat, even over the gnarliest moon rocks. They also weigh less than the last generation of moon tires, which is a big deal when you’re shooting stuff into space. The tires will likely end up on rover-type robots, but one can always hope an enterprising privateer will build another moon buggy for our enjoyment.
According to NASA researcher Vivake Asani of the tires:
“[These tires do not have a] single point failure mode. What that means is that a hard impact that might cause a pneumatic tire to puncture and deflate would only damage one of the 800 load bearing springs. Along with having this ultra-redundant characteristic, the tire has a combination of overall stiffness yet flexibility that allows off-road vehicles to travel fast over rough terrain with relatively little motion being transferred to the vehicle.”
The tire was tested out last year on NASA’s Lunar Electric Rover test vehicle and put through its paces at the “Rock Yard” at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. It passed the test with flying colors.
Goodyear made the original tires for the Apollo moon buggy back in the ’70s. The tires were made from a steel mesh and featured titanium chevrons for traction. The whole wheel/tire combo weighed only 12 pounds.
Three of the four original fully-functional moon buggies are still on the moon, resting in sublime lunar piece. Buggies made for testing are on display at Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington, the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas and the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Reproduction moon buggies can be found at several other museums in the U.S.