Last week a team of NASA engineers, astronauts and geologists took a new lunar rover prototype for a spin in the Arizona desert. The Small Pressurized Rover was tested in the 11th annual Desert RATS field tests. Research and Technology Studies, that is – no rodents here!
The design differs from the old Apollo lunar rover, because it allows the crew to sit inside a pressurized environment and drive about with the need for bulky spacesuits. The new rover was put through its paces with day-long trips around the desert to determine performance. Although these are some of the longest trips the prototype has made, this week the team will shift gears and begin three-day testing.
Although I understand the need for more versatile equipment, I’m kind of sad to see the Apollo buggy bite the moon-dust. It has a kind of retro-futuristic feel, looking kind of like someone knocked it up in their backyard in a spare afternoon, and it just looks pretty stylish. The new rover, whilst it might have increased functionality, just looks a little bit awkward. You certainly wouldn’t catch me puttering about the Sea of Tranquillity in one.