Having supplied products for NASA’s Apollo program – which included the Apollo 11 moon landing – Goodyear Tire & Rubber will join Lockheed Martin for the development of a lunar mobility vehicle with a focus on lunar vehicle tires.
Goodyear has worked with NASA to innovate and advance lunar vehicle tire designs, with the companies aiming to be the first to establish extended-use commercial vehicle operations on the moon.
For the project, the tire maker will draw on expertise gained through the production of its airless tire technology, which is used on Earth for micro-mobility, autonomous shuttles and passenger vehicles. At present, the knowledge is being applied during concept testing in lunar soil testbeds and will aid in manufacturing tires that can withstand the challenging conditions found on the moon.
With previous Apollo lunar rovers being built for missions within 8km of their landing sites, future endeavors will demand longer distances from the specialist vehicles, with operations expected to take place in more extreme temperatures. Temperatures on the moon range from -156°C at night to over 120°C during the day, so newly developed tires will need to provide years of durability and use in these extremes.
“NASA’s Artemis program to live and work on the moon has a clear need for lunar surface transportation that we intend to meet with vehicles driven by astronauts or operated autonomously without crew,” said Kirk Shireman, vice president of lunar exploration campaigns at Lockheed Martin. “We’re developing this new generation of lunar mobility vehicles to be available to NASA and for commercial companies and even other space agencies to support science and human exploration. This approach exemplifies NASA’s desire for industry to take the lead with commercial efforts that enable the agency to be one of many customers.”
“Everything we learn from making tires for the moon’s extremely difficult operating environment will help us make better airless tires on Earth,” commented Chris Helsel, senior vice president of global operations and chief technology officer at Goodyear. “This will contribute to our end goal of enabling mobility no matter where it takes place. Just as important, it is an honor to write history with this prestigious company that knows how to make giant leaps in exploration and mobility.”
The companies aim to have the first vehicle on the surface of the moon when NASA conducts a mission in 2025, which will see the first woman and first person of color walk on the lunar surface.