NASA and Goodyear team to develop tire that won't go flat

Spring Tire developed for moon, but how long before we see it on earth?

The Spring Tire
Flat tires can be a serious problem whether you are tooling down the interstate or crunching across a foreign planet.  In developing what could be the next cool technology for those of us here on earth, NASA and Goodyear have developed an airless tire let large, long-range vehicles transport heavy loads across the surface of the moon.

The "Spring Tire" has inside 800 load bearing springs and is designed to carry much heavier vehicles over much greater distances than the wire mesh tire previously used on the Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV). According to Goodyear, NASA requires tires that can handle vehicles that will weigh ten-times what Apollo required.

NASA's prototype rover has six independently controlled and powered wheels ala NASA's Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. On the rover, all six wheels can pivot individually in any direction, regardless of where any other wheel points. The vehicle also features "crab steering" that will let it drive into the craters of the moon. If a slope is too steep to drive down safely, the vehicle could drive sideways instead. The all-wheels, all-ways steering also could come in handy when unloading and docking payloads or plugging into a habitat for recharging, NASA said.  NASA's lunar architects currently envision pressurized rovers that would travel in pairs, two astronauts in each rover. The new prototype vehicle is meant to provide ideas as those future designs are developed.

The new tire will allow for broader exploration and the eventual development and maintenance of a lunar outpost, NASA stated. (to see a video of the tire go here)

According to Goodyear, development of the original Apollo lunar mission tires, and the new Spring Tire were driven by the fact that traditional rubber, air-filled tires used on Earth have little utility on the moon. This is because rubber properties vary significantly between the extreme cold and hot temperatures experienced in the shaded and directly sunlit areas of the moon. Furthermore, unfiltered solar radiation degrades rubber, and pneumatic tires pose an unacceptable risk of deflation.

The Spring Tire would not let a hard impact that might cause a pneumatic tire to puncture and deflate the tire but rather such an object would only damage one of the 800 load bearing springs, Goodyear stated.  Along with having this ultra-redundant characteristic, the tire has a combination of overall stiffness yet flexibility that allows off-road vehicles to travel fast over rough terrain with relatively little motion being transferred to the vehicle.

The Spring Tire was installed and tested at NASA's Johnson Space Center's "Rock Yard" in Houston where it performed successfully, NASA said.

How long before we see this technology turn up in off-road truck tires?

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