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NASA's Chariot Is Not Your Father's Moon Rover

The NASA Chariot is a lunar truck prototype created to service the future US lunar outpost. Developed by the Exploration Technology Development Program's Human-Robotics Systems Project in just eleven months, the vehicle is designed to meet the payload transport, range, terrain and speed specifications defined by NASA’s Lunar Architecture Team.


(NASA Chariot rover video)

The Chariot's chassis can be reconfigured for a variety of purposes and payloads. It can carry a mix of suited crew and payload; it can also be outfitted with a small pressurized cabin.

The pilot's control pedestal can rotate 360 degrees; the Chariot has no "front" or "rear." According to Johnson Space Center roboticist Rob Ambrose "The Apollo astronauts couldn't back up at all because they couldn't see where they were going in reverse." The vehicle itself has a zero turn radius - it can turn around entirely within its own length.

NASA's Chariot is also the first lunar drop deck lowboy - take a look at the Chariot with the chassis dropped right down to the ground for easy loading and unloading.


(NASA Chariot shown here dropped to the ground)

The specifications for Chariot were set forth as follows:

Chariot Spec Earth Prototype Lunar System
Payload 1000 kg 3000-6000 kg
Vehicle Mass 2000 kg 1000 kg
Top Speed 20 kph 20 kph
Range 25 km 100 km
Slope Climbing 15 Degrees 25 Degrees

Science fiction writers have spent a fair amount of time thinking about how to get around on the Moon's surface. Arthur C. Clarke thought we might need mass transit:

The monocab entered a long tunnel at the base of one of the domes. Sadler had a glimpse of great doors closing behind them - then another set, then another. Then there was the unmistakable sound of air surging around them, a final door opened ahead...
(Read more about Clarke's monocab from Earthlight [1955])

Clarke also created a practical vehicle for towing material around on the Moon's surface that took advantage of the powdery lunar soil - the dust-ski, which moved like a jet-ski through deep lunar powder:

At that very moment... one of the searching dusk-skis was passing directly overhead. Built for speed, efficiency and cheapness ... It was, in fact, no more than an open sledge with seats for the pilot and one passenger - each wearing a space suit - and with a canopy overhead to give protection from the sun. A simple control panel, motor and twin fans at the rear, storage racks for tools and equipment - that completed the inventory. A ski going about its normal work usually towed at least one carrier sledge behind it
(Read more about Clarke's dusk-ski from A Fall of Moondust [1961])

Robert Heinlein thought that lunar prospectors might want to have something more personal for travel and hauling:

The solitary prospector, deprived of his traditional burro, found the bicycle an acceptable and reliable, if somewhat less congenial, substitute. A miner's bike would have looked odd in the streets of Stockholm; over-sized wheels, doughnut sand tires, towing yoke and trailer, battery trickle charger, two-way radio, saddle bags and Geiger-counter mount made it not the vehicle for a spin in the park - but on Mars or on the Moon it fitted its purpose the way a canoe fits a Canadian stream.
(Read more about Heinlein's lunocycle from The Rolling Stones [1952])

From NASA Chariot via Wired.

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