A Miniature Sleigh and Eight Tiny Reindeer
Twas a night before Christmas...when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a mini rover and eight tiny reindeer.
The Small Pressurised Rover resembles early designs for the Apollo Lunar Module, with wheels. The SPR was doing sideways maneuvers on the lawn outside Johnson Space Center Building 31. The prototype is not pressurized for Space, but can shelter two astronauts for short trips. This Fall it was tested with a crew in the Arizona desert. At this writing it is being packed up for a trip to Washington DC. On January 20 the SPR will be a memorable part of the inaugural parade, complete with a Spacesuited astronaut.
On the back are the ports where our Spacesuits will be stored externally. NASA adopted rear entry for the suits, so astronauts in the rover can just crawl inside. The suit will have removable outer layers for EVA. When astronauts are finished on the Moon they can leave the outer layers and the icky lunar regolith behind. The pressurized inner layer serves as a Spacesuit for the trip home.
The Apollo Lunar Rover was powered by 4 independent electric motors attached to each wheel. For tight spots it had on-demand 4-wheel drive. Electric cars for Earth would have a similar power system. That sideways capability would be great for parking. Perhaps this electric rover will inspire clean cars for our planet.
Johnson Space Center is also home to a small herd of deer. At night I’ve seen them run across the Building 31 lawn like silent shadows. On the evening the Rover was using the lawn, eight of them were on the other side of Building 9. Perhaps someday they will graze beneath the rectennas from a power satellite. Space age technology can coexist with nature, and help us live better with the Earth.
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!