General Motors and the aerospace firm Lockheed Martin are teaming up to develop a next-generation lunar rover that NASA astronauts could use on future missions to explore the moon, the two companies announced Wednesday.
The new rover, according to Lisa Callahan, vice president, and general manager of Lockheed’s commercial civil space division, will be an important component of establishing infrastructure on the moon to allow extended stays and ambitious research and exploration goals.
“We’ll need mobility to have a prolonged presence on the moon,” she said in a press conference on Wednesday.
The rover is still in the concept stage, but it will be an electric vehicle that can move independently on the lunar surface, according to GM executives.
Few specifics about the rover’s design have been finalized, according to Kirk Shireman, vice president of Lockheed’s lunar exploration operations, but the objective is to allow humans to go far from their landing locations on the moon.
“You need a pretty level site with no boulders to safely land the first lady and next man on the surface of the moon,” he stated. “How do you get the humans from this wonderful, smooth, level region with no stones to the places that are very scientifically interesting?”
Three missions of NASA’s Apollo program employed so-called Lunar Roving Vehicles: Apollo 15, Apollo 16, and Apollo 17. The electric cars had a range of less than 4 miles and a max speed of around 8 mph. They were produced by Boeing with GM as a subcontractor.
NASA may begin soliciting bids for lunar rover designs later this year, but GM and Lockheed officials gave no indication of a program timeframe or cost estimate.
Last year, NASA asked for proposals for new lunar rovers and “robotic mobility systems,” which would allow humans to transfer equipment and perform research experiments across a large area of the moon.
“As we return to the moon with Artemis, we’re looking for fresh and inventive ways that will allow us to operate robotically anywhere on the lunar surface and investigate more of our nearest neighbor than ever before,” said Steve Clarke, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for exploration.