back to article Next-gen Moon buggy FLEX conquers California desert, seeks lunar speed record

Space startup Astrolab, led by ex-SpaceX manager and NASA engineer Jaret Matthews, has successfully tested a lunar rover prototype that can operate telerobotically or ferry around a crew of two astronauts. A full-scale prototype was lately tested in the California desert near Death Valley. The five-day field test (which …

  1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    California Desert

    So, threatening the habitat of some endangered rat.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: California Desert

      Nah. Contrary to the lies of the greenaholics, there are a lot more square inches of desert than there are square inches of desert rat ... and for the most part, the rats live in loose rocks and largish deadwood (cabins, mine sites), which are usually avoided by desert off-roaders.

  2. JDPower666

    Looks like a skip on wheels

    1. Zebo-the-Fat

      But, it's an Astroskip!

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Reminds me of childhood soapbox derbies.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Shopping trolley?

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      Or a wheelbarrow

  3. Anonymous Coward


    The heck with 18kph. They need to implement a Ludicrous Mode.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Ludicrous

      well if it had fuel cells in addition to batteries, maybe they could get some extra power. Batteries are ok but speed and distance require something with better energy density. But combine them together (In My Bombastic Opinion) and you'd do much better than a slow moving golf cart.

      Another possible fuel might be Otto Fuel which requires no air, sort of a self-combusting liquid material. The combustion products are toxic but in a vacuum that would not matter much. The upside is that you could use a regular piston type engine (the ones in torpedos are a bit like a pneumatic impact wrench) and similar design and fuel means lower development cost. But hey, "practicality" is not always the way things work with NASA contracts...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ludicrous

      They need to implement a Ludicrous Mode.

      Driving on the moon isn't ludicrous enough?!

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Ludicrous

        No more ludicrous that Europeans bringing horses to help explore the Americas.

  4. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Smart move?

    Perhaps Mercedes could develop a Lunar version of this...

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Smart move?

      They could do everyone a favor and ship all the existing ones to the Moon.

  5. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Silver badge


    Make it look like the one from Space: 1999 or GTFO.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So neither the Stig or Jezza's getting a look in on off world speed trials on this one.

  7. Adair Silver badge

    Just looking at the pic ...

    it looks like having a scarily high center of gravity, or simply rather high for its width.

    I'm sure they'll test driving across a slope and find out when it does actually fall over.

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Just looking at the pic ...

      Not really. My guess, the white box is the batteries whicj are sitting just above the wheels.

  8. jake Silver badge

    Mine's faster!

    "As well the potential to carry a pair of astronauts, the trundlebot can lug three cubic metres of payload slung beneath it (weighing in at 1,000kg)."

    So it's basically a pickup truck. I'll take a dune buggy in that terrain, TYVM.

    ""The nominal speed of FLEX is 15kph but we hope to push this a bit and set a new lunar speed record at just over the 18kph that Eugene Cernan did in 1972."

    Until some enterprising astronaut manages to retrieve and hot-rod one of the original rovers :-)

    Read in light of the fact that the first automobile race undoubtedly occurred the first time two drivers encountered each other.

  9. Winkypop Silver badge

    Spacemen, activate your motors!

    I think Cernan’s Moon Speed Record will stand for quite a time.

  10. Cuddles


    "We anticipate astronauts being able to cover 60+km during a typical EVA, or extravehicular activity"

    I'm not sure it counts as an EVA when the whole point is that the astronauts are inside a vehicle.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: EVA

      Not so much in as on. It's doorless and topless.

    2. Neoc

      Re: EVA

      Beat me to it.

      "EVA" made sense when you are out in space and you, in fact, go outside the spacecraft (vehicle). I'd even accept it when talking about going outside the space station as this thing is orbiting at a decent speed and could be classified as a "vehicle".

      But if you're on Mars, or the Moon, then the shelter or base cannot be classified as a "Vehicle".

      "Extra-Base Activity" (EBA)? "Extra-Shelter Activity" (ESA)? Heck, we already have the term "Moon Walk".

  11. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921

    Suspension appears to be built into the wheels? I'd like similar functionality in my electric bicycle wheels.

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