The one thing that may separate a thriving lunar outpost (or on any world) from a dying one is transportation. While scientists and engineers may be able to figure out how to create lunar roads using the Moon's soil, they will need to reinvent the wheel (note: pun intended) when it comes to tires.
Fortunately it looks as if Michelin has already designed a tweel (which is a cross between a tire and a spoke wheel) for lunar rovers, which will enable rovers to travel the lunar terrain at fairly high speeds.
(Moon Today) Based on the award-winning MICHELIN TWEEL assembly, the MICHELIN Lunar Wheel maintains flexibility and constant ground contact pressure that enables moon rovers to traverse loose soil and lunar craters. The MICHELIN Lunar Wheel has a low mass yet maintains a high load capacity that is 3.3 times more efficient than the original Apollo Lunar Rover wheels.
The wheel structure, developed by Michelin, employs Michelin-patented composite materials. Its textile tread, developed in conjunction with Clemson University and Milliken and Company, enables moon rovers to maintain traction at very low temperatures.
"This new technology not only applies to lunar missions, but may also be directly leveraged into other mobility applications requiring light-weight and low rolling resistance," said Stafford. "It's an exciting advance for mobility in space and here on Earth."
Although Michelin's goal is to aid lunar rovers, this technology would also appeal towards future Martian rovers (and settlers) as it would reduce the need for extra spares (in case one of their tires is damaged beyond repair).
Unless future settlers of other airless worlds (such as Callisto, Ganymede and Triton) develop hovercrafts, Michelin's invention could easily become the standard space wheel for our solar system.
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