The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, which supplied essential products for NASA’s Apollo program, including the Apollo 11 mission which landed on the moon 53 years ago, will continue that tradition—focusing on lunar vehicle tires—by joining Lockheed Martin in its development of a lunar mobility vehicle in partnership with General Motors. (Earlier post.)
Lunar mobility concept
Since Apollo, Goodyear continued innovating alongside NASA to advance designs for a lunar vehicle tire. The team of companies intends to be the first to establish extended-use commercial vehicle operations on the Moon. Goodyear brings its vast expertise in a mission-critical component—tires—to traverse the lunar surface.
NASA’s Artemis program to live and work on the Moon has a clear need for lunar surface transportation that we intend to meet with vehicles driven by astronauts or operated autonomously without crew. We’re developing this new generation of lunar mobility vehicle to be available to NASA and for commercial companies and even other space agencies to support science and human exploration. This approach exemplifies NASA’s desire for industry to take the lead with commercial efforts that enable the agency to be one of many customers.—Kirk Shireman, vice president of Lunar Exploration Campaigns at Lockheed Martin
Goodyear is drawing from its advanced airless tire technology used on Earth with micro-mobility, autonomous shuttles and passenger vehicles to advance lunar mobility and withstand the challenging conditions on the Moon. The companies are already applying existing expertise to the project including testing concepts in lunar soil test beds.
Everything we learn from making tires for the Moon’s extremely difficult operating environment will help us make better airless tires on Earth. This will contribute to our end goal of enabling mobility no matter where it takes place.—Chris Helsel, senior vice president, Global Operations and Chief Technology Officer at Goodyear
The Apollo lunar rovers were purposely built for just a few days of use on excursions within five miles of their landing sites. Future missions will need to traverse rugged terrain over much longer distances while operating in greater temperature extremes. New tire capabilities will need to be developed for years of durability and even survive the night that sees temperatures of below -250 degrees Fahrenheit and daytime temps of more than 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lockheed Martin is leveraging its more than 50-year-history of working with NASA on deep-space human and robotic spacecraft, such as NASA’s Orion exploration-class spaceship for Artemis and numerous Mars planetary spacecraft. The company will also manage the development of the program’s commercial business operations and engagement with NASA and global space agencies. Lockheed Martin has also helped NASA explore every planet of the solar system, and continues to develop new technologies for future space missions.
Another teammate, MDA of Canada, recently announced its commercial robotic arm technology will be used on the human-rated lunar mobility vehicles. The arm will provide valuable contributions as support for astronauts as well as enabling greater functionality of the rover on fully autonomous missions.