iRing Lunar Flex-Wheel

The iRing is a special wheel under development for the Lunar Exploration Light Rover; as you can imagine, it will need to navigate some of the toughest terrain in our little corner of the solar system.

The iRing is made of a material that looks like chainmail ("recalls the armor worn by knights in medieval times"), and is filled with "granular particulate matter" for flexible toughness. The intent is to provide a wheel that can conform to the jagged surface of the moon, and can also absorb shock in the wheel itself.


(iRing lunar flex-wheel)

Arthur C. Clarke got close to this idea with what he called "flex-wheels" in his 1968 novel 2001: A Space Odyssey:

Most of them moved on balloon tires, for this smooth, level plain posed no transportation difficulties; but one tanker rolled on the peculiar flex-wheels which had proved one of the best all-purpose ways of getting around on the Moon. A series of flat plates arranged in a circle, each plate independently mounted and sprung, the flex-wheel had many of the advantages of the caterpillar track from which it had evolved. It would adapt its shape and diameter to the terrain over which it was moving, and, unlike a caterpillar track, would continue to function even if a few sections were missing.

From Un prototype de roue révolutionnaire via Engadget.

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