• Jan 4, 2011

Apparently, driving on the moon – with or without local human assistance – isn't all that easy. We wouldn't know. Anyway, researchers from McGill University believe they have a new invention that might make traversing the lunar surface a bit more possible, using tires fashioned from a chainmail-like fabric filled with tiny metal particles... sort of like metallic bean bags.

Using such an unearthly combination for these so-called iRings (quick, someone call Steve Jobs!) makes for a somewhat heavy set of wheels with good traction. Just as importantly, these hoops can vary their shape for the various types of terrain a lunar machine is likely to encounter.

A final prototype is reportedly planned for the spring of 2012 in a full-size, manned machine that may or may not ever make it into space. Other potential applications include recovery vehicles for areas stricken by natural disasters. Check out a video of the machine in action here. Oh, and get a load of that seven-slat Jeep-like grille in the prototype – nice detailing!

[Source: McGill Reporter via Engadget]


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  • 15 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      what kind of ppl names stuff "i..." in 2011?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Apple fans (iFans, if you will). Wish it would go the way of the eName crud backwhen B2B 'net was forming.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The moon's gravitational pull is about 1/6th that of the earth's, so weight isn't as important once you're on the big ball of cheese. I'd be more concerned about rotational inertia and the power needed to spin those wheels. Very cool invention nonetheless.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I could be wrong, but i think the idea is that the wheels can be stuffed with regolith once you're up there.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Weight is a major concern for launching the thing. It costs an average $10,000 per pound to launch into geosynchronous orbit (low-earth orbit is $4,000 per pound, a trip to the moon would be even higher). Most likely the limiting factor will be the maximum payload of the launcher - every extra pound the wheels weigh is a pound less of equipment that can be carried.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I would think that weight is ALWAYS a major concern when you're talking about anything that makes up part of the payload for a lunar mission.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Really just a variation on the lunar rover tires from 40 years ago

      http://www.collectspace.com/ubb/Forum39/HTML/000193.html
        • 4 Years Ago
        Eh, this seems a bit different, in that it's essentially solid-filled instead of relying on the flexural stiffness of the sidewalls to support it. These seem a lot less bouncy than the original concept, too...
      • 4 Years Ago
      There's an entire episode of From the Earth to the Moon about the development of the original rover. Gives some good insights into why the tires were designed the way they were, etc.

      This seems like a bit of an evolution of the original design. Talk about the ultimate road trip :)
      • 4 Years Ago
      Not sure if the vehicle's mobility is due more to the ties or the highly articulating suspension.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Obviously, weight is a major concern but my guess is rotational speed limitations might also be a big problem. A lunar rover that can traverse severe surfaces is nice but, it also needs to be able to cross vast areas quickly when possible.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Sorry, that should have been "tires".
        • 4 Years Ago
        Probably a little bit of both, but it seems like they've at least shown that the chain mail and bean combo is capable of meeting their traction targets. I'm more concerned as to how much these weigh, being completely stuffed with solid beans doesn't sound very light.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Not to mention handling capabilities. I know it doesn't need to perform like a sports car, but I feel like these would produce a horrid on-center feel and would nearly fold over on themselves when cornering.

        Also, if there was a break in the chain mail, all of the pieces-parts would leak out...I've experienced this same situation all too many times with bean-bag chairs...
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