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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ohio's Goodyear To Reinvent Wheel: NASA Needs Tires For Trips On Moon

AKRON (TDB) -- NASA's Glenn Research Center is collaborating with Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. to design a set of wheels for a new fleet of lunar rovers. This time, the vehicles will be bigger than the small dune buggies that astronauts drove around the moon in the 1970s. These new tires are supposed to be mounted on transport and construction vehicles. NASA already has the preliminary designs of the vehicles on paper, as the illustration shows.

The U.S. space program plans to return to the moon by 2020 and set up a permanent manned base. Goodyear is the nation's largest tire-maker and worked on the tires used on Apollo 15's lunar rover, which was more like a battery powered golf cart that shuttled astronauts while they picked up rocks near their landing site. It was the first car driven on the moon.

There were two other rovers built and driven during the Apollo program. The vehicles could go about 8 mph and the tires were piano-wire contraptions equipped with cleats to dig into the dusty, rocky surface for traction.

NASA Glenn is in suburban Cleveland and said it is putting seed money into innovative technologies that include designs of tires for moon cars, buses and trucks.

"Goodyear, which developed the original tires for the Apollo lunar lander, is working to develop a new generation of airless, non-ribber, wire mesh tire to allow for use of heavier, longer-range exploration and lunar construction vehicles required for NASA's exploration goals. New tools will be developed to assess the tire structure as it relates to various terrains, both on the moon and on Earth."

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