• Sep 18th 2009 at 7:55AM
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With no time on its hands for promotional appearances at glitzy European autoshows, one of America's most advanced electric vehicles has been busy being put through its paces on the torturous terrain found at Black Point Lava Flow in Arizona. The Lunar Electric Rover (LER) has spent the last couple weeks wandering about this wasteland simulating a search for lost crew members in a trial that's putting the modern plug-in electric car architecture to the test.

Unlike the dune buggy-like moon rovers of yore, the Ford Ranger-sized LER depends on lithium ion batteries and is currently using a chemistry that packs 125 wh/kg of energy, though NASA, not unlike today's would-be electric car buyer, hopes to have at least a 60 percent improvement in that number before it leaves the sales lot launch pad. The pack will not only need to hold lots of juice but be engineered to perform without being affected by the exterior temperature which can swing from -153 C all the way up to 107 C. Unlike any electric earth-based vehicles (so far), the LEV has an exercise bike built in that can be used to give the batteries a boost in case of emergency or just to alleviate perceived range anxiety. Also, like many of the new breed of electric cars, the moon rover features an advanced navigation software. The improved smarts helped the rover track down the missing crew in less than an hour without any help from its heuristically programmed algorithmic computer. Hit the jump for a NASA Desert Rats video discussing the machine and its mission.

[Source: Technology Review]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Too bad that lunar expedition will be cancelled. Ironically, it was the Bush jr. administration that started this lunar return project, and it was the Bush jr administration that doubled the national debt and triggered the financial crisis that will force its cancellation.

      Manned space flight is a luxury we can no longer afford.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Correct, that screw-up Bush Jr. started the Constellation program, but he didn't properly fund it.

        The program is likely to get a small boost, according to recent news.

        You may see space-flight as a stupid luxury, but it's for scientific research, technology-development, exploration, earth observation, inspiration, and a psychological boost for the nation. We CAN afford manned space flight, NASA's budget is only a small fraction of the federal budget, just 0.52 percent, $17.6 billion.

        If you and I were in power (and we're not) and want to curb our deficits, there is the Military Industrial Complex, the United States spends about $1 Trillion annually on defense-related purposes. There is a lot to cancel there, and a lot more to save, than cutting NASA.

        • 6 Years Ago
        Well, your new president does seem to understand the importance of science and research, so I think your space program isn't going to suffer that much.

        Besides, we'll get to the moon eventually. If you don't do it, someone else will, likely the Chinese unless we in the EU (and Russia) can get off our collective fat asses. We have the technology, the experience and the money to pull it off, it's just that we're sort of being pussies about manned spaceflight.
        But as a last hope there's a well-known CEO of a certain electric car company whose side job is heading a private spaceflight company that offers very cheap launches, and a bunch of entrepreneurs competing globally to build low-cost lunar landers in the GLXP and NGLLC.
      • 6 Years Ago
      It may take 30, 40 or 50 years, but you know eventually someone will start racing these things. On the Moon. :D
      • 6 Years Ago
      Me want civilian version! Who wouldn't want a 12WD electric off-roader? Toss a Kubota generator in the back and get lost in the woods for a week.
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