Lockheed Martin, an aerospace company, and General Motors, an American vehicle manufacturer, have recently announced plans to establish an autonomous and electric buggy-like vehicle. This new vehicle is expected to aid future astronauts in zipping around the Moon’s surface.
Lockheed and General Motors are among the group of industry giants that have built the 1st lunar landing systems and buggies of NASA under the Apollo program. They have partnered to develop a Lunar Terrain Vehicle for the Artemis program of NASA, which is a human spaceflight program that requires several vehicles, scientific bases, and robots to be planted on its surface over the next decade.
The two companies have reportedly revealed that the new roving vehicle will adopt the autonomous driving technology of the automaker. The rover, which will be fully electric, has been designed to traverse much farther distances as compared to the Apollo-era buggies.
According to Rick Ambrose, Executive VP of Space Unit at Lockheed, the rover is expected to assist astronauts in conducting high-priority investigation on the lunar surface, that can ultimately impact the understanding of the solar system. The Artemis program requires an initial astronaut landing on the Moon by 2024, along with various follow-up missions to maintain a sustained presence on its south pole.
General Motors, which has been investing $27 billion in the autonomous EV portfolio, is looking for the 1st installation of its self-driving EV on the Moon. The latest collaboration between the company and Lockheed happened after NASA requested the private sector to provide creative ideas for 2 types of the human-rated lunar vehicles, i.e. the LSSMS (Lunar Surface Science Mobility System) and LTV (Lunar Terrain Vehicle).
The new lunar roving vehicle must be rugged and capable of withstanding the volatile surface temperatures of the Moon’s south pole, which may vary between 260° Fahrenheit to -280° during nighttime.