SUV-sized rover to ferry NASA astronauts around moon
April 5, 2023 01:20 PM
NASA yesterday unveiled the team of astronauts who will be the first humans to go the moon in over 50 years, The Sun reported.
So, let's take a look at the wheels that will someday accompany humans on the lunar surface.
Artemis squads of the future are expected to galivant across the moon's terrain in an SUV-sized rover known as the Astrolab FLEX.
The Flexible Logistics and Exploration (FLEX) rover is intended to carry cargo, equipment and up to two people on the moon.
Designed by American aerospace startup Astrolab, the vehicle is about the size of a Jeep Wrangler.
It's bigger than Nasa's Perseverance rover on Mars and can travel up to 15 miles per hour while carrying two astronauts.
But it won't be too dissimilar from the Martian vehicle, as the FLEX will also be fitted with a robotic arm for assisting with cargo.
In future missions, the rover may well assist humans in building a permanent base on the moon - or even Mars.
Astrolab has already cut a deal with Elon Musk's SpaceX to get the rover a place in his mega-rocket Starship.
However, it's not expected to go up alongside the newly unveiled Artemis II crew, who will also be launched to the moon in Starship sometime between November 2024 and 2025 in a 60,000 mile round trip.
Instead, the FLEX has reserved a seat on an uncrewed Starship cargo mission that could launch as early as mid-2026.
Although Starship is not yet licensed to leave the ground, the rocket is expected to be granted permission by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) in the coming months.
“This is SpaceX’s first commercial cargo contract to the lunar surface,” Jaret Matthews, CEO of Astrolab, told the New York Times on March 31.
“Ultimately our goal is to have a fleet of rovers both on the moon and Mars,” he added.
“I really think I see these vehicles as the catalysts ultimately for the off-Earth economy.”