It was in 2018 when Tesla launched the Roadster in astronomical proportions, literally, which makes it the first production-based vehicle in space. However, General Motors, which has a considerable input on the development of Apollo 15's Lunar Rover in 1971, was the automaker to have a hand at the first car to actually be used in space.
In what seems to be a callback to that event decades ago, General Motors is working with Lockheed Martin to develop the next-generation Lunar Rover to be called a Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV).
Lockheed Martin, of course, has a deep 50-year history of working with NASA on deep-space human and robotic spacecraft. On the other hand, GM is expected to bring its expertise in battery-electric technologies and propulsion systems. More importantly, GM will also be using autonomous technology to facilitate safer and more efficient operations on the moon.
"General Motors made history by applying advanced technologies and engineering to support the Lunar Rover Vehicle that the Apollo 15 astronauts drove on the Moon," said Alan Wexler, senior vice president of Innovation and Growth at General Motors.
"Working together with Lockheed Martin and their deep-space exploration expertise, we plan to support American astronauts on the Moon once again."
Of note, the previous Apollo lunar rovers only travelled 4.7 miles (7.6 kilometres) from the landing site. This time around, GM and Lockheed Martin target to go farther distances, notably up to the Moon's south pole where it's cold and dark, riddled with more rugged terrain. This will be the first exploration on that end, by the way.
GM's autonomous and self-driving systems will be used for human landings, as well as provide commercial payload services and enhance the range and utility of scientific payload and experiments.