The final spectacle in yesterday's Inaugural Parade was none other than NASA's Lunar Electric Rover. STS-126 crew and Expedition 17/18 engineer Greg Chamitoff all strode by, waving to the crowds, followed by the LER concept vehicle.
The driver, four-time Shuttle vet Michael Gernhardt, completed a "crab crawl" in front of the new presidential couple, who were grinning like all get out as space-walker Rex Walheim demonstrated how astronauts will undock from “spacesuit ports” on the moon. His port-mate, young Barbara Janoiko-Romig, waved cheerily to screaming onlookers as Rex saluted, then marched ahead of the vehicle, finishing the route carrying the stars & stripes.
The compact 12-wheeler can shelter two astronauts for two weeks, and is designed for both longevity and low-maintenance. In addition to moving sideways, it can also climb (slopes up to 40 degrees) and “kneel” forward so inhabitants of the glass cockpit may examine lunar objects without leaving the pressurized environment.
Remember the post about how regolith gets into everything? Those aft ports are designed to hold the suits outside, keeping moon dust out of the cabin. They are also much easier to get into and out of, cutting space-walk preparation time to a mere 10 minutes.
Again for the hardcore among us, here is a longer video of the rover assembly process by the JSC designers & robotic engineers.
Ain’t that a piece of hardware!