Apr 20th, 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM


Lunar Rover Traction Concepts in Reduced Gravity

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Jim Browning


Future exploration of the moon and Mars will require systems capable of transporting both humans and cargo in reduced gravity environments. The combination of lunar regolith and reduced gravity creates issues for vehicular traction. NASA is interested in testing transportation systems in lunar environments to establish the relationship between the weight of a vehicle and its traction abilities on the lunar surface. The greater the mass of a vehicle, the better traction it will have in reduced gravity. However, a heavier vehicle requires more fuel to deliver the payload from the Earth to lunar orbit to the lunar surface and results in a costlier mission. NASA is especially interested in investigating ways to lower the weight of lunar exploration vehicles without compromising their traction. This experiment will observe how different wheel geometries interact with lunar regolith simulant under variable loads in lunar gravity. The project includes building a test apparatus with digital data acquisition, designing a test matrix, performing the experiment in lunar gravity, and sharing the experience with the community. Key components include a DC motor providing enough torque to overcome the static friction of the lunar regolith, software to control the motor, and an enclosure that houses the regolith and the wheel test apparatus. This project is a preliminary step for future research and experiments.