Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Goodyear Airless Radials

The Apollo manned lunar rover, which flew to the Moon on the final three science, of "J" missions, Apollo 15, 16 & 17, were steel-belted, packed on-board their lunar modules like a combination closet-guest bed and ironing board. On Earth, the little air inside the metal exoskeleton that has inspired billions of rugged consumer tires ever since became many pounds per square inch of pressure, with nothing but the airless vacuum of space to offer opposing pressure. They were ingenious enough to inspire Goodyear to design a more rugged version for carrying heavier cargoes greater distances for longer periods.

Lunar Pioneer discussed the design back in April. More information, via On Orbit, surfaced today, courtesy of Goodyear and NASA Glenn.

"The new "Spring Tire" with 800 load bearing springs is designed to carry much heavier vehicles over much greater distances than the wire mesh tire previously used on the Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV). The new tire will allow for broader exploration and the eventual development and maintenance of a lunar outpost.

"According to Vivake Asnani, NASA's principal investigator at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, this was a significant change in requirements that required innovation. "With the combined requirements of increased load and life, we needed to make a fundamental change to the original moon tire," he said. "What the Goodyear-NASA team developed is an innovative, yet simple network of interwoven springs that does the job. The tire design seems almost obvious in retrospect, as most good inventions do."

"The Spring Tire was installed on NASA's Lunar Electric Rover test vehicle and put through its paces at the Johnson Space Center's "Rock Yard" in Houston where it performed successfully."

It should be mentioned, at least in passing, according to Motor Trend, that Michelin tires carried the Lunar Electric Rover "demo" through it's publicity tours, such as taking up the absolute rear of the Presidential Inaugural Parade, last January.

The On Orbit posting can be appreciated HERE.

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