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GM’s latest vehicle: off-road, self-driving rover for the Moon


General Motors, together with Lockheed Martin, is producing the last off-road, self-driving, electric vehicle for the Moon.

Cape Canaveral, Fla. – General Motors is teaming up with Lockheed Martin to produce the last off-road, self-driving, electric vehicles for the Moon.

The project announced on Wednesday is still in its early stages and has not yet scored any money from NASA. But the goal is to design lightweight but rugged vehicles that will travel farther and faster than the lunar rovers carrying NASA Apollo astronauts in the early 1970s, the companies said.

“The mobility is really going to open up the moon for us, who are now Lockheed Martin’s vice president for lunar exploration,” said Kirk Shayerman, a former NASA manager.

The rovers used by the Apollo 15, 14 and 14 moonwalkers did not travel more than 9 1/2 miles (6.7 kilometers) from their landers. GM also helped design those vehicles.

NASA last year solicited industry views on lunar rovers. The space agency aims to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024, a deadline set by the previous White House.

According to GM vice president Jeff Ryder, his early Rovers would be designed to carry two astronauts at a time. A brief company video featured a large, open rover speeding over the lunar slopes, with more headlights in the distance.

“This is just a glimpse of how we see the opportunity play out,” Ryder said.

By operating autonomously when needed, Shayerman said, the rover can keep astronauts safely away from dangerous locations such as permanently capped craters at the moon’s south pole. The frozen water collected from these dark corners can be used for drinking, growing plants, and making rocket fuel.

While autonomy can also improve efficiency, astronauts focus on collecting rocks as a rover follows behind like a puppy, he said.

In a separate venture it started two years ago, Toyota partnered with the Japanese space agency to build a pressurized electrically-powered lunar rover for astronauts. They are calling it the Lunar Cruiser.

GM and Lockheed Martin’s vehicle will be pressurized, meaning riders will have to wear spacesuits at all times. According to Shayerman, there is room for both models.

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The Associated Press Department of Health and Sciences receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. AP is fully responsible for all content.

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