If you think driving over a couple of New York City potholes is difficult, try driving on Mars! While most people obviously view the prospect of driving in outer space a complete joke, the folks over at NASA consider it all in a day's work. Well, not so much the actual driving, but figuring out how to execute it. See, the problem with the Mars is that it's not most hospitable terrain for a friendly joy ride. Take the Mars Curiosity robot, for example, that thing went at a very mild 0.09-mile-per-hour and still ended up malfunctioning from small rocks ripping holes in its tires! It was clear then, that NASA had their work cut out for them.
It seems, however, that after these shape memory alloy tires roll out, the exploration of Mars will be revolutionized, once and for all! Take a look at the video below as Engineer Colin Creager and Materials Scientist Santo Padula explain what these tires are all about.
To reiterate, these rover tires are made from nickel-titanium alloy, a material that be deformed and return back to its original shape time and time again. The elastic material allows a sort of shape memory to occur — think of these tires like a tempurpedic mattress. No matter how many times you plop down, the bed springs back up. Unlike a tempurpedic mattress, however, these tires can endure much more than a sleeping human with back problems.
In order for tires to sustain "life" on Mars they need to be all-terrain, lightweight, durable, and be able to withstand fluctuating temperatures. It seems, for the time being, that this shape memory alloy tire fits the bill! Of course, as with anything NASA does, it will be years before this discovery actually makes its way to outer space! That said, it shows a steady progression in exploring parts unknown as efficiently as we can!
Lead Image Via YouTube/NASA Glenn Research Center