How does someone build car tyres that work at places with no atmosphere, carries the weight of two people and a ton load of equipment, and still be light enough to be taken on top of a spaceship to the moon? Goodyear answered all those questions when they built tyres for the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV).
It was a revolution at that time. These tyres were durable enough to carry all that cargo and traverse unknown lands and were easy to handle even by astronauts wearing those awfully bulky space suits.
It worked wonders back then. However, today, the requirement is entirely different. NASA is planning to sightsee a lot more of the moon’s surface (and go to Mars too), and for that, they need a new generation of spacecraft tyres. The simple wireframe design of yesteryear will not work anymore, especially when it needs to withstand a journey through outer space and then take on a completely unknown landscape.
Clearly, they need to be better than your cheap car tyres at Oxford, but who can you turn to for the next generation of tyres?
Goodyear to the Rescue
Just like half a century ago, Goodyear again stepped forward to make this new generation of tyres. Design-wise, these do not have to be something drastically different, but during application, they will have to withstand a lot more than their predecessors. First generation rover tyres had to support only 60 pounds for 75 miles, whereas the new fleet of lunar vehicles will need tyres that will have to support almost 600 pounds for 7500 miles at a stretch.
This requires a significantly different construction. Goodyear engineers are planning to make this new generation with metal springs woven together (original ones used intertwined wires). One advantage of using metal is its longevity. Unlike rubber, metal can withstand much harsher temperatures, and by using springs, Goodyear is looking forward to making it immune to damage.
So, it’s A Tyre Made of Springs?
Correct; it is an airless tyre made from hundreds of nickel-titanium springs. All these are crimped to a rim that the rover will be connected to. This new type of car tyres can handle all that weight while withstanding severe deformation. In the lab tests, scientists pushed it almost to the axle and allowed it to return to its original shape. It retained its original form, something unimaginable with tyres made from conventional materials. Also, this design has a unique resistance to damage. Even if a few of the springs in its structure get damaged, it will still work without a hitch.
The Future is Already Here
Well, not quite so. There is no possibility that you will see these in your neighbourhood car garage like Phillips Tyres Oxford right now. Engineers have test driven these tyres with standard passenger vehicles. Their ability to absorb so much impact while transferring so less energy back to the passenger cabin makes their application a not-so-impossible possibility in the near future. Companies like Goodyear always strive to make the best new car tyres Oxford for their customers. Presently they are working alongside NASA to create a more down-to-earth version of their space tyres.
Whether conquering Earth’s natural satellite or the red planet, Goodyear is taking bold steps in every direction. With the promise to build tyres for rover 2.0, earthlings should hope to see some radical new designs for their otherwise mundane car tyres.