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Michelin wheel walks on the moon with NASA

A specially-designed wheel from tire and wheel specialist, Michelin, will drive the next generation of moon rover vehicles which require mobility under extreme conditions and harsh terrain.

Made of patented composite materials, the structurally-supported tyre/wheel assembly was jointly-developed by Michelin’s European and North American research centres.

NASA was so impressed with this development that it has signed Michelin to help meet its mobility needs for manned and unmanned missions to the moon over the next decade.

Based on the MICHELIN TWEEL assembly, the Michelin Lunar Wheel maintains flexibility and constant ground pressure, allowing the vehicle to move through loose soil and craters.

It combines low mass and high payload capacity, making it 3.3 times more efficient than the original Apollo Lunar Rover wheels, according to a spokesperson for Michelin.

Its textile tread, developed in partnership with Clemson University and Milliken & Company, enables the rover to maintain traction at very low temperatures.

The Michelin Lunar Wheel underwent testing in Hawaii from 31st October 31 to 13th November 2008 as part of NASA’s lunar analogue testing and evaluation program. The terrain, rock distribution and soil composition of Hawaii’s Big Island provide a high-quality simulation of the lunar polar region.

The Michelin Lunar Wheel made its debut at the 56th US presidential inaugural celebration. Astronauts aboard NASA’s latest Small Pressurised Lunar Rover prototype rolled down Pennsylvania Avenue on Michelin non-pneumatic tyre/wheel technology at the swearing-in ceremony for Predsident Obama.

Michelin has been supplying space shuttle tyres to NASA for over 20 years.

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