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Goodyear and NASA to develop Moon Tyre

Goodyear, the innovator of innovative tyre technology on Earth, is working with NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC) to significantly evolve its technology and take its capabilities to the rest of the universe. Part of a funded program by NASA's Innovative Partnership Program (IPP) to develop non-pneumatic tyres for use first on the moon, and eventually on Mars, the IPP Seed Fund was established to advance key technologies to meet critical needs for NASA's missions.

Because of the unique atmospheric characteristics of the operational environment, "The basic rubber-pneumatic design used on Earth does not have the same utility on the moon," said NASA Principal Investigator Vivake Asnani. "The challenges associated with creating a lunar tyre are further complicated by the fact that there are no lunar roads. Lunar tyres need to be designed to develop traction on sandy undulated terrain, in regions that humans have never even seen up close. Plus, the prospect of an immobilizing 'flat tyre' would be devastating to the mission."

Goodyear Principal Investigator Dave Glemming said the decision to partner with NASA for this initiative was easy. "Not only will the outcome of this project deliver a product that can handle the performance capabilities required for lunar mobility and beyond, we expect the outcome will yield answers to how future non-pneumatic tyres may be designed for Earth applications."

The Goodyear team will consist of a cross section of research and tyre technology associates at the Akron Technical Center.

Goodyear's prototype non-pneumatic tyre, under development for use first on the moon and eventually on Mars, builds on technology pioneered by Goodyear in the 1960s for the Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle's (LRV) wire mesh moon tyre. During the past year, Goodyear has been using computer modelling tools to analyse the LRV's original design, evaluating the Apollo lunar rover wheel, along with prototype pneumatic tyres and non-pneumatic concepts, in order to build a baseline understanding of the wheel's mechanics and the challenges of the lunar environment.

February 2008