NASA engineers, designers, and space scientists have been testing a new Small Pressurized Rover designed for future lunar landings. Astronauts and geologists have spent the past week testing out the rover in the 11th annual Desert RATS – or Research and Technology Studies — field tests. The teams have been driving the rover through the Arizona desert, testing out it’s various configurations.
The new lunar rover is still a prototype under development, but it has features unlike any other lunar vehicle before it. It’s pressurized cabin can allow astronauts to explore the lunar surface for weeks at a time, without wearing spacesuits. And the rover’s wheels can lift independently and will operate in any direction, making it highly maneuverable on the rocky surface.
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There are different configurations available to the rover’s crew members; they can leave the cabin unpressurized and be free to get on and off the rover whenever they like, in which case they’d need to wear spacesuits. Or they could enable the Small Pressurized Rover, or SPR configuration, which adds a module on top of the rover’s chassis that the crew can sit inside as they drive the vehicle, making spacesuits unnecessary. The pressurized cab has leather seats and bunks, and the battery powered rover can travel at speeds of up to 6 mph. Pretty swanky.
NASA hopes to build a permanent manned base on the moon’s surface as a prelude to subsequent exploration missions to Mars.