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!