NASA's Glenn Research Center developed a "superelastic tire" that is designed and equipped for its rover. This new wheel could revolutionize space exploration and could be used for a future rover mission.
The wheel, which is described as superelastic and durable, was developed by NASA in partnership with Goodyear and inspired by Apollo lunar tires. It has a medieval look and makes use of shape memory alloys that can withstand rough environments such as the Red Planet and other planets, too. It can also resist immoderate deformation.
Colin Creager, a NASA engineer, said that he had never even heard of the term shape memory alloys before. On the other hand, he has been collaborating with Santo Padua, a materials scientist, to come up with this new tire that they think could really revolutionize planetary rover tires and potentially even tires for the planet Earth, too, as noted by Phys. Org.
Both scientists agreed to use nickel titanium, which is a shape memory alloy that can retain its shape under intense and rough conditions. This shape memory alloy has an atomic structure that can be assembled in a way that the material returns to its original shape after being deformed and strained.The new tire can handle about 10 percent of strain, which would not be affected by any deformation, while the commonly used elastic materials could only bear about 0.3 to 0.5 percent. It is also robust and can be used on different terrains. In addition, it is simple, lightweight and versatile. The wheel could also be used for automobiles, aircraft, military vehicles, heavy equipment, agricultural vehicles, and construction vehicles, according to Tech Times.The team then sent the newly developed tire to the Mars Life Test Facility at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. These tires might be used on NASA's Mars 2020 Rover that will be on a journey to the Red Planet. The rover will also search for signs of life on Mars just like the Curiosity and other rovers. It will collect samples that would be returned to planet Earth by a crewed mission that is expected to occur in the 2030s.
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