During the 2008 Desert RATS tests at Black Point Lava Flow in Arizona, engineers, geologists and astronauts came together to test NASA's new NASA's Lunar Electric Rover. Image Credit: NASA
One concept that is in NASA’s current plans is a Lunar Electric Rover. This small pressurized rover is about the size of a pickup truck (with 12 wheels) and can house two astronauts for up to 14 days with sleeping and sanitary facilities. It is designed to require little or no maintenance, be able to travel thousands of miles climbing over rocks and up 40 degree slopes during its ten year life exploring the harsh surface of the moon. The rover frame was developed in conjunction with an off-road race truck team and was field tested in the desert Southwest with 140 km of driving on rough lava.
The view from cockpit and the ability to "kneel" make it easy for astronauts to get close to objects they want to examine without having to leave the cabin. Its wheels can move sideways in a "crabbing" motion, one of many features that make it skilled at scrambling over rough terrain. The crab style steering allows the vehicle to turn on a dime with a zero turning radius and drive in any combination of forward and sideways.
Astronauts can work in shirtsleeves in the safety of the rover's cabin, and when they need to, or want to for exploration missions, they can quickly enter and exit their spacesuits through suitports. These suitports on the rover's aft bulkhead keep the astronauts' suits outside, allowing a spacewalk to start in ten minutes and keeping moon dust out of the cabin. By removing the cabin, the chassis can be used to carry payloads or allows astronauts to drive it in spacesuits. This capability also affords reusability and redundancy for long term, robust operations.