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AKRON, OHIO, August 3, 2009 – The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company have developed an airless tire to transport large, long-range vehicles across the surface of the moon.
The new "Spring Tire" with 800 load bearing springs is designed to carry much heavier vehicles over much greater distances than the wire mesh tire previously used on the Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV). The new tire will allow for broader exploration and the eventual development and maintenance of a lunar outpost.
According to Vivake Asnani, NASA’s principal investigator at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, this was a significant change in requirements that required innovation. "With the combined requirements of increased load and life, we needed to make a fundamental change to the original moon tire," he said. "What the Goodyear-NASA team developed is an innovative, yet simple network of interwoven springs that does the job. The tire design seems almost obvious in retrospect, as most good inventions do."
The Spring Tire was installed on NASA’s Lunar Electric Rover test vehicle and put through its paces at the Johnson Space Center’s "Rock Yard" in Houston where it performed successfully.
"This tire is extremely durable and extremely energy efficient," noted Jim Benzing, Goodyear’s lead innovator on the project. "The spring design contours to the surface on which it’s driven to provide traction. But all of the energy used to deform the tire is returned when the springs rebound. It doesn’t generate heat like a normal tire.