How Nasa’s new lunar tyres solved a CAR scoop

Published: 13 February 2009

We solved an unusual CAR spy photo problem earlier today. A few weeks back forum regular Petrolheadinrussia passed us some shots of a strange new car tyre on test on an Audi A4. Instead of rubber sidewalls, these boots had a conventional tread supported by a latticework of fins attached to the wheel.

Some kind of new airless tyre, we wondered? The long-awaited non-pneumatic rubber breakthrough that European ed Georg Kacher keeps banging on about? As it turns out, it was perhaps a rather more space-age solution.  Michelin today announced its new Lunar Wheel which will be fitted to the next generation of NASA’s manned and unmanned moon rover vehicles.

The Lunar Wheel (fourth picture in our gallery) is made of boffiny composite materials and its textile tread is engineered to maintain constant ground pressure irrespective of the terrain. Michelin says it is 3.3 times more efficient than the original Apollo Lunar Rover wheels and keeps traction even in the moon’s freezing temperatures. Sounds like we could do with a pair to keep the CAR team mobile in the UK’s harshest winter for 20 years.

Turns out the tyre maker has been supplying NASA for more than two decades. And there was CAR’s team of experts pondering if this was a new roadgoing type of airless tyres. The end of punctures! Lighter weight! Perfect for coping with big craters!

Guess we’d better call Michelin and fit a Vauxhall Astra with these moon boots. And ask them exactly when we’ll be able to spec Lunar Wheels on our Audi A4…

>> Click here for more blogs by Tim Pollard

>> Click here for blogs by the rest of the CAR team

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet