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Click above for image gallery of lunar rovers in action.

About the time Ford was developing the first Mustang, General Motors' Defense Research Labs was working on something more other-worldly. Man was about to go to the moon, and they needed some transportation when they got there. GM was chosen to develop the running gear along with the tires for the three lunar rovers that would travel to the moon.

Now, more than 40 years later, NASA is on a mission to return to the moon and again needs something to cruise the craters. As we've reported before, NASA is developing a new rover design, but wants to improve upon the original rover's wheels. Unfortunately, the original rovers are still on the lunar surface, and, in its infinite Cold War wisdom, NASA made sure nothing from the original design escaped the shredders.

Luckily, NASA called up one of the original rover tire designers to seek his insight. The 80-year-old engineer was more than happy to help, and even offered to bring in the original, 40-year-old lunar rover tire he had squirreled away in his closet. Made out of zinc-coated piano wire, the tire has been sitting in the retired GM employee's closet just waiting for its day to do its patriotic duty. Or end up on eBay.

So the engineer and his 40-year-old moon tire are helping NASA develop a new transportation system for future moon-exploring astronauts. Click here to listen to the NPR story. Check out the gallery for several shots of the piano-wire-mesh tires in action on the lunar surface. Thanks for the tip, Christina!


[Source: NPR]


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  • 22 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      Bring on the carbon nanotubes!
      • 6 Years Ago
      The Apollo Program - Truly one of the great American achievements. To me, it defines what the US is capable of when it puts it's will-power behind it.

      • 6 Years Ago
      Interesting engineering story. Where has the patriotism gone?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Actually you won't believe the number of religious lunatic idiots there are working as engineers....usually the ones working at places like Lockheed, Northrop, etc...all the aerospace firms making war crap and military bull.

        I can't believe there are people out there who can sleep at night knowing the weapons they design and make "help" freedom and democracy. Douche bags.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Patriotism? The rover was developed by GM but it got to the Moon thanks to von Braun na his rocket. Von Braun was German and Saturn V was his brainchild based on his old V2 design. Germans can be equally proud :-)
        • 6 Years Ago
        @Kitco,

        If Van Braun just did a walk on performance with his V2, how come we didn't go to the Moon in 1950?
      • 6 Years Ago
      "GM was chosen to develop the running gear along with the tires for the three lunar rovers that would travel to the moon. "

      Thank god it was a used only once vehicle. It's no wonder we haven't returned to the moon since.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Time and time again GM has proven itself.
        ZR1, Lunar Rover, give them a chance.
      • 6 Years Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      The hell? I think you have GOODYEAR confused with GM.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I got it one piece at a time . . .
      • 6 Years Ago
      Interesting...that NASA would destroy the design, any drawings or actual examples, but one of engineers would help himself to left-over wheel and take it home. There is some tight security. Wonder what the value of that little theft was to my tax-payer dollars?

      Why not go look at the two tires at the Air and Space Museum?

      And...GM was "chosen"...but really as part of cost-plus-incentive-fee contract with Boeing as the prime. Shame the the final cost ballooned from $19M to $38M. Where is Good-Year since manufactured the tire then and have since reproduced the tire?

      Seems like a fluff story.
        • 6 Years Ago
        That's because it is, I've seen the remaining rover that didn't go to the moon in the Smithsonian. That one has four wheels that they could take a look at. It was displayed right next to one of the original Apollo capsules. I was impressed when I saw the tires. They look to be made out of heavy gauge stainless wire that goes from really thick near the hub to really thin at the other end. It looked very simple and I don't think they would have any difficulty at all in making a much better one from new materials.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The wheels were made by Campangolo of Italy.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I heard it flipped over in a turn and its engine exploded...

      just kidding, but I think GM could use the lunar car in an ad campaign "We are the only car maker that made it to the moon" to prop up its tech credentials.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I agree with Joe Black that this seems like a fluff story. There is a complete lunar rover at the museum of flight in Seattle.
      http://www.flickr.com/photos/cjonesgo/3058757095/in/set-72157604632489377/
      I even noticed the cool mesh wheels when I took the pic!


      Even if they destroyed the building plans (seems unlikely) they must at least have paid attention to who they sent these very secret parts (or complete rovers) to...
      • 6 Years Ago
      "NASA is developing a new rover design, but wants to improve upon the original rover's wheels."

      They're looking at 23" rims to cruise in style...
        • 6 Years Ago
        Throw some D's on that..... rover.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yeah, cuz nothin' says class like chrome 23" wheels...
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