This Isn't Your Father's Automobile (Or Airplane) Tire
Michelin has developed a new lunar wheel for the next generation
of NASA moon rover vehicles. The structurally-supported tire and
wheel assembly, made of breakthrough composite materials, was
jointly developed at Michelin's European and North American
This unique innovation will help Michelin meet NASA's mobility
challenges for manned and unmanned moon missions planned for the
coming decade, according to the tire manufacturer.
"Michelin has partnered with NASA for more than 20 years to
provide tires for the space shuttle, and now we are taking our
involvement a step further in support of the next generation of
space exploration," said David Stafford, chief operating officer of
Michelin Americas Research Company. "This project demonstrates
Michelin's ability to engineer advanced technology that meets the
mobility needs of the world's most demanding customers, including
Based on the Michelin TWILL assembly, the Lunar Wheel maintains
flexibility and constant ground contact pressure that enables moon
rovers to traverse loose soil and lunar craters. The Lunar Wheel
has a low mass yet maintains a high load capacity that is 3.3 times
more efficient than the original Apollo Lunar Rover wheels.
The wheel structure, developed by Michelin, employs
Michelin-patented composite materials. Its textile tread, developed
in conjunction with Clemson University and Milliken & Company,
enables moon rovers to maintain traction at very low
"This new technology not only applies to lunar missions, but may
also be directly leveraged into other mobility applications
requiring light-weight and low rolling resistance," said Stafford.
"It's an exciting advance for mobility in space and here on
Funded in part by a grant from NASA's Innovative Partnership
Program, the Michelin Lunar Wheel will be featured on the Scarab
Rover, a lunar robot designed by Carnegie Mellon University, in
cooperation with NASA's Exploration Technology Development Program
for its In-Situ Resource Utilization project. Equipped with a drill
designed to cut through layers of lunar soil, the Scarab Rover is
capable of operating in continual darkness and extremely cold
temperatures with little power.
Michelin has also developed a lunar wheel for the Athlete Rover,
a six-limbed lunar rover capable of transporting cargo over any
terrain to aid NASA in the assembly of the lunar outpost.