Astrolab's new FLEX lunar rover. Credit: Astrolab

Next Generation Lunar Rover to Conquer the Moon’s Surface

The American company Venturi Astrolab has introduced a universal lunar rover. It can carry both cargo containers and astronauts.

When will humans land on the Moon again?

After the moon race of the 1960s and 1970s, interest in landing on the moon faded, and for several decades the Earth’s satellite was explored mainly from orbit. But in recent years, a second lunar race has begun.

So, in a decade, five landers were sent to the Moon, of which three successfully landed on the surface. There have also appeared private and state programs for the study of the lunar surface by automatic stations from XPRIZE, NASA, Roskosmos, and China.

And NASA, with other agencies and private companies, plans to land people on the moon in a few years, although the deadline is gradually shifting: the first mission was originally scheduled for 2024, but now representatives of the agency already speak about 2026 and as an optimistic date.

In connection with plans for large-scale exploration of the Moon, NASA has been asking private companies for several years to develop certain mission components, ranging from cargo ships and landers to lunar rovers, implying that developments will be used by both the agency and companies.

Venturi Astrolab revealed their lunar rover prototype

The brand new FLEX rover protoype was tested in the Californian desert. Credit: Venturi Astrolab
The brand new FLEX rover prototype was tested in the Californian desert. Credit: Venturi Astrolab

Venturi Astrolab has developed the FLEX rover for future lunar missions, which can be useful for a variety of purposes.

The rover is quite large, judging by the photo, about three meters in length. It has four wheels and a tall, hollow body with a large cargo container in the center.

The company proposes, together with other industry participants, to develop a universal container format, similar to standard cargo containers on Earth. To lift the container from the surface or vice versa to put it down, the rover can lower the body due to the adjustable suspension.

In addition to containers, the company offers to transport oversized cargo and even astronauts, who can stand on the back of the platform while riding.

Engineers assembled and tested a full-sized prototype rover in the desert and demonstrated its operation using a mock-up solar generator, which was transported by two people in spacesuits and installed on the surface of the sand.

It is assumed that the rover will be able to drive semi-autonomously and under the control of the operator.

While FLEX exists as an initiative project, the company notes that it has already contacted NASA, which has asked private companies to develop lunar vehicles, and SpaceX, which plans to launch both NASA missions and its own to the Moon.

In 2019, Toyota and JAXA began developing their rover, which plans to conduct missions with NASA. It will be a pressurized lunar vehicle for transporting astronauts.


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Sources:

Astrolab. (n.d.). Astrolab Advances Lunar Mobility with FLEX Rover.
Gorman, S. (2022, March 12). California startup Astrolab unveils Space Rover, more than a mere ‘Moon Buggy’. Reuters.
Grush, L. (2022, March 10). Aerospace startup reveals new modular lunar rover for carrying people and cargo on the Moon. The Verge.

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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