Marangoni Project Recreates Lunar Vehicle
Forty years have now passed since the moment when Neil Armstrong’s boots pressed the first ever footprints on the surface of the moon. Several years later the lunar surface encountered the roll of a specially manufactured moon tyre when the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) became the first vehicle to literally offer out of this world performance. Those with a hankering to get better acquainted with the LRV can now do so thanks to Marangoni, who has produced a replica of this groundbreaking vehicle.
The Marangoni Group’s Tyre Machinery Division has built the replica as part of a three-year project conducted in partnership with the Rovereto Civic Museum, which is located near the Italian firm’s headquarters. The overall project focuses on various research areas related to the fields of robotics, sensor systems, and automation, which are also applied to environmental issues and new communication technologies. The replica vehicle, says Marangoni, is to be the starting point for the development of future projects in the field of mechatronics and materials engineering.
The LRV utilises technology that dates as far back as the late 1950s, yet Marangoni notes it features a myriad of “interesting and valid solutions” that can still today serve as a point of reference for the development of new technologies. The reconstruction is based on technical and photographic material supplied by NASA. The replica vehicle will be on display at the Rovereto Civic Museum during its “Back to the Moon” exhibition from 21–31 May 2009, and will be driven by the US astronaut Charles Duke, lunar module pilot on the Apollo 16 mission, who will arrive from the United States especially for the inauguration of the event.
The original LRV, used on the Apollo 15 (July 1971), Apollo 16 (April 1972) and Apollo 17 (December 1972) missions, was designed to be transported to the Moon by the Apollo lunar modules and carry samples of soil, data and astronauts. Used for the first time on 31 July 1971, it significantly expanded the range for exploring the moon’s surface. The LRV could reach a maximum speed of 13 km/h, however for safety reasons it rarely exceeded 4-5 km/h. In its favour, the moon’s weaker gravity enabled the LRV to take on 30 per cent inclines and escarpments up to 70 centimetres wide – feats that are practically impossible on Earth. After performing their duty, the LRVs were abandoned on the moon, where they still remain.
The Boeing and General Motors built LRV was similar in size to a modern small passenger car. Steering was performed by an aviation type joystick in place of a steering wheel and motive power was provided by 0.25 horsepower electric motors fitted to each wheel, each supplied by chemical batteries with an operating autonomy of 100 kilometres at full power. Passenger facilities in the open vehicle wwere basic: Nylon seats were shaped to accommodate the bulk of astronauts wearing their spacesuits and carrying and portable survival kits, and the occupants were protected against the affect of potholes in a low gravity environment by robust seat belts. An automatic navigation system allowed the LRV to move safely, above all preventing the astronauts from getting lost and having to find their way back to the lunar module.