Concept art for the new Moon Buggy. Credit: Northrop Grumman

NASA’s New Moon Buggy Revealed—Here’s What We Know

Astronauts on the Moon will need an all-terrain vehicle for large-scale exploration and Northrop Grumman have just announced their own concept.

A group of American companies led by Northrop Grumman presented a project of a lunar rover for NASA’s Artemis program, which will allow astronauts to conduct exploration of the lunar surface. Such an electric craft could be sent to the moon as early as 2025, but no specific dates for the readiness of the Moon buggy have yet been announced.


Lunar rovers of the Apollo program

Man-operated lunar rovers were used three times during the Apollo program and allowed astronauts to travel long distances to explore the surface of our natural satellite. For example, during the Apollo 17 mission, the vehicle moved 7.6 kilometers away from the lander, and in total, each of the three rovers covered at least 27 kilometers on the lunar surface.

The rovers were four-wheeled and had two seats each. They were electric and received energy from non-rechargeable batterie. Onboard those old all-terrain vehicles, there was a radio and television communication system, as well as cameras.

Artemis projects

In NASA’s Artemis program, which envisions the return of people to the moon in 2025, lunar rovers will play an important role in the large-scale research on the lunar surface. It is assumed that there will be several options for vehicles. In particular, JAXA and Toyota, in agreement with NASA, will develop a sealed lunar vehicle.

The transport will have a sealed compartment in which astronauts will be able to take off their spacesuits. The habitable volume of the vehicle will be 13 cubic meters. The developers note that the craft will be designed to carry two people, but in an emergency, four can use it. The length of the car will be six meters. It is expected that astronauts will be able to survive inside for up to two weeks.

Another version of the all-terrain vehicle will be an open lunar LTV (Lunar Terrain Vehicle), similar to the Apollo all-terrain rovers, which can be used for terrain reconnaissance. NASA began searching for companies capable of building such a craft in early 2020, and in May this year, Lockheed Martin and General Motors announced their plans to create one for the agency.

Northrop Grumman’s Moon Buggy

On November 16, 2021, Northrop Grumman announced that it will work with four other companies to create a four-wheeled, leaky lunar rover for use in Artemis. It is expected that the all-terrain vehicle will have both manual and remote control capabilities. The working life span of this proposed lunar buggy will be up to ten years.

Intuitive Machines will develop an upgraded version of the Nova-C lander, called the Nova-D, to deliver the Moon buggy to our natural satellite. Lunar Outpost will assist Northrop Grumman with the design of the all-terrain vehicle, such as dust suppression and heat management systems. AVL will assist in the creation of an electric propulsion system. Finally, Michelin will help create dedicated airless tires for the all-terrain vehicle. Veteran Apollo astronauts Harrison Schmitt and Charles Duke are also expected to be involved in the project.


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Sources:

Ciaccia, C. (2021, November 17). Northrop Grumman shows off New Astronaut Moon Buggy even as NASA’s Artemis Mission is in doubt . Daily Mail Online.
Foust, J. (2021, November 17). Northrop-led team proposes Artemis Lunar Rover. SpaceNews.
Northrop Grumman Newsroom. (n.d.). Northrop Grumman announces team for NASA’s next-generation lunar terrain vehicle.
Wall, M. (2021, November 17). Northrop Grumman reveals plans for New Astronaut Moon Buggy. Space.com.
Young, C. (2021, November 17). Astronauts will traverse the Moon in 2025 using an autonomous buggy. Interesting Engineering.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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