GM to design next-gen rovers for moon: Five key highlights

General Motors has partnered with Lockheed Martin to bring the best of the automotive technology and deep space exploration technology together to use
Moon rovers have inspired the global automobile industry to invent new technologies in past. (File photo for representational purpose)
Moon rovers have inspired the global automobile industry to invent new technologies in past. (File photo for representational purpose)

NASA' is gearing up for its next moon mission Artemis. Under this program, NASA will send humans back to the Moon where they will explore and conduct scientific experiments using a variety of rovers. The US space agency has sought industry approaches to develop the next-generation Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV) that will be used by the astronauts to explore the lunar surface.

This LTV is going to be the first of many types of surface mobility vehicles required for NASA's Artemis program. This is not the first time General Motors has designed moon rovers. Previously as well, the automaker helped NASA to develop moon rovers that were used by the space agency.

Companies like Lockheed Martin, General Motors have teamed up to develop the next-generation Lunar Rover for NASA's Artemis astronauts. General Motors is working on the new generation of Lunar rovers that are expected to be far superior to any past rovers and will offer better range and enhanced autonomous driving capability.

Here are some key points to know about the new generation Lunar Rover developed by General Motors and Lockheed Martin for NASA.


Improved range than previous moon rovers

The past Apollo rovers that went to the moon only travelled around 7.6 kilometres distance around the landing site. Expect the next generation Lunar Rover to be capable of travelling further distance through the cold, dark and rugged terrain, as NASA aims to expand its exploration in the south pole of Moon.

It is not yet known what would be the range of the Lunar Rover. But, Rick Ambrose, executive vice president, Lockheed Martin Space, indicates that these next-generation rovers will dramatically extend the exploration range of the astronauts, helping them to perform high-priority researches. Only 5% of the lunar surface is explored till date and this rover is expected to be a key instrument in exploring the other 95%.


Autonomous driving technology onboard

The next-generation Lunar Rover will come with a host of advanced technologies, among which one will be the self-driving system, which will allow the vehicles to assist the astronauts to travel extra distance without hassle. Also, the technology will help the rovers with better payload services and scientific experiments.

The Lockheed Martin-GM moon rover is expected to be able to preposition itself without human intervention near a landing site prior to the astronauts’ arrival. The astronauts will have the ability to task the rover from the Human Landing System or the orbiting lunar Gateway to conduct science operations autonomously. This will help NASA to perform more tasks in small time. However, General Motors or Lockheed Martin are yet to reveal further details.


The new Lunar rover comes with GM's rich experience

General Motors is not new to the domain of lunar vehicles and it has a rich heritage of supporting NASA with the moon rover vehicles. The company was associated with the engineering of the Lunar Rover Vehicle that the Apollo 15 astronauts drove on the moon, and this time again it is working on a similar project with more advanced technology and expertise.

The company's experience in working within the space industry is helping the automaker to develop the new rover. It manufactured, tested and integrated the inertial guidance and navigation systems for the entire Apollo Moon program. The company was associated with the Apollo 11 mission and the first human landing on Moon in 1969 as well. The automaker also helped develop the electric Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), with the chassis and wheels for the LRV that was used on Apollo's 15-17 missions.


Automotive expertise meets deep-space exploration expertise

General Motors is one of the largest automobile majors in the world and it has a rich experience in the segment. While Lockheed Martin has rich expertise in deep-space exploration technology. As GM says, combining both, the GM-Lockheed Martin partnership is aiming to support the NASA astronauts on the Moon once again.

The new generation moon rover will come built based on the automotive expertise and past experience of General Motors, while Lockheed Martin is working on the deep space technologies that should be on board the vehicle to charter a path on the Lunar surface.

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Likely to fuel a giant leap in mobility technology

The Lunar rover kind of exploration vehicles have always inspired the auto industry to invest some new technologies. Not only that, in the past, these have also inspired the defence, telecommunication technologies as well. The current electric powertrain technology, radar, sensors etc. can be traced back to such kind of explorations conducted by the NASA or any other space agencies.

In future as well, the next generation Lunar Rover can be a pathfinder in terms of fueling new developments, new innovations in the automotive technology world. As the global automobile industry is thriving towards the electric powertrain technology, self-driving systems etc., the new Lunar Rover could be a gamechanger in that segment.

First Published Date: 27 May 2021, 12:29 PM IST

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