Goodyear is going back to the moon. The company will supply airless tyres to the Project Artemis lunar rover that Lockheed Martin and General Motors will cooperate to produce.
Goodyear is already working on the airless tyre, including testing concepts for it in lunar soil test beds. The final design needs to be capable of working for years on the moon's harsh, crater-filled surface. Plus, temperatures there can vary from below -250 degrees Fahrenheit at night to over 250 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.
"Everything we learn from making tyres for the Moon’s extremely difficult operating environment will help us make better airless tyres on Earth," said Chris Helsel, senior vice president of global operations and chief technology officer at Goodyear.
Goodyear previously contributed parts to the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. It supplied components like the window frame for the command module, the panel holding the instruments, and flotation bags for the capsule for supporting the capsule's fall into the ocean.
Lunar Rovers were part of travelling on the moon during the Apollo 15, Apollo 16, and Apollo 17 missions. They only travelled a few miles away from the landing site but provided astronauts with a faster way to get around.
In comparison, the new rover from Lockheed Martin and General Motors is supposed to travel much farther during several years of service. Lockheed intends to commercialise this vehicle by selling access to commercial companies and other space agencies that want to travel on the moon.
So far, we've only seen GM's design for the Lunar Terrain Vehicle in renderings. They show a vehicle with a simple design with a flat lower section and a roll hoop with a light on it. There's room for two people plus a large cargo bed in the back.
In addition to human control, the rover will be able to operate autonomously to pick up astronauts or to go where people will need the vehicle.
Project Artemis aims to put humans back on the moon. This is still several years away because the plan is to start with unmanned tests and gradually work up to putting people on the lunar surface. SpaceX is developing the lander for this undertaking.