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NASA Puts Lunar Electric Rover to Desert Test

On the moon, the 12-wheeled, battery-powered LER would have a range of about 150 miles.

Published: 17-Sep-2009

If NASA astronauts return to the moon in the next decade, they'll get to cruise the lunar surface in style.

The space agency's current plan is to send humans back to the moon by 2020, and this includes using a new exploration vehicle called Lunar Electric Rover (LER). About the size of a small pickup truck, LER has 12 pivoting wheels that enable the rover to move in any direction and turn on a dime; it features a tilting cockpit for close-up views of the terrain; and it runs on batteries and fuel cells.

This week NASA completed field tests of the rover in Black Point Lava Flow, AZ, as part of an annual event called the Desert Research and Technology Studies (D-RATS). The desert landscape--a rugged terrain of sand dunes that is subject to sandstorms and violent temperature swings--is ideal for simulating lunar exploration.

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