WAPAKONETA, Ohio—Students and staff from Ohio Northern University (ONU) will deliver a drivable, full-size lunar rover replica to the Armstrong Air & Space Museum on Thursday, May 5. The rover is the result of three years of work by students from ONU’s Smull College of Engineering.
The rover seats two, can travel at 10 miles per hour, and includes authentic accessories like an antenna and tool storage. The Museum plans to use the vehicle for rover outreach engagements, special events and parades.
“It’s amazing that we will now have this realistic and working vehicle for outreach events. I don’t know how many other museums can drive their own lunar rovers,” said Chris Burton, executive director of the Armstrong Air & Space Museum. “Hopefully, this rover will inspire the next generation of engineers and astronauts to pursue their dreams in science, technology, engineering, and math.”
“I would hope that seeing a project like this would inspire young kids in some way,” said Alec Flemming, an ONU senior mechanical engineering major from Powell, Ohio. “If they’re interested in math or science, they might say, ‘This is really cool. Maybe I could do this some day.’”
NASA developed the original Lunar Roving Vehicle for the Apollo moon program. The battery-powered vehicle looked like a dune buggy and carried two moon-suited astronauts on open seats. Apollo missions 15, 16 and 17 carried rovers.
The project posed numerous problems for the Ohio Northern team. NASA designed the lunar rover for use on the Moon, in 1/6 of Earth’s gravity. The museum’s rover would, of course, have to operate in 1G. Tires of wire mesh could support the reduced weight on the Moon, but would not suffice for streets on Earth. The University’s student project manager and team members needed to address each issue to balance physics, financial considerations, authenticity, and other real-world limitations.
“I hope the people who encounter the rover are able to experience exactly what the astronauts felt,” said Eric Dicke, an ONU senior mechanical engineering major from New Bremen, Ohio. “We tried to make it aesthetically as close to the actual rover as we possibly could.”
Twenty-three Ohio Northern students spent more than 3,000 documented hours on the project. The project spanned six consecutive semesters and involved students in mechanical, electrical, computer, and civil engineering as well as the college’s new engineering education major.
The rover cost an estimated $19,000 to build, with funds and materials provided by ONU’s Archer Memorial Fund, the Ohio Space Grant Consortium, and Polaris Industries.
The lunar rover will join its cousin “Curio” at the museum. Almost exactly three years ago, the University delivered a 1:4 scale working model of Curiosity, a rover currently exploring Mars.