Shielding Lunar Rovers
Wesley Ian Bruce
While heavy iron plating may be the best local vehicle building
material on the moon it should be noted that on the moon a heavy looking
ceramic object will seem very much lighter and could even be used for moon
rover construction. The Apollo moon buggy suffered from a traction and
braking problem; it was too light to get a good grip on the ground. A stone
shelled vehicle might sound strange but such an option is available. As
stone and ceramics have good strength in compression but not in tension,
for high tensile strength we will need to make fiberglass on the moon,
possibly from imported materials. Fiberglass or fiber reinforced
ceramic sheets are very strong in tension. Wrapping stone or ceramics with
fiberglass will allow those two strengths to be combined.
An eight-inch stone-hulled rover with a shielded volume of 378 cubic
feet has an approximate shell volume of 15.5 cubic feet. At 135 pounds
per cubic foot on Earth and the moon that's a mass of 2092 lb, 1.05 tons
but on the moon its weight is only 349 lb or 0.175 tons. The high mass
adds a large load to the rover but the relatively high weight also adds
349lb of weight for traction.
The resulting mass will be higher than metals but a vehicle's acceleration
is dependent on its traction and its inertial mass. If its inertial mass
is very low and its traction is low then a normal sized power plant will
propel it at very high speeds but with no control at all. With a higher
mass the acceleration is much lower but the traction and handling are both
better. Enclosed moon rovers will need to be shielded from radiation, and
that shielding will add weight to the vehicle. With fiberglass
reenforced stone or ceramics as structural materials we achieve both
strength and high radiation shielding with a material that is 80 to 90
percent lunar material by mass.
These vehicles will still look nifty because they will have a thin
mirror shell to keep them cool in the sun and a metal or plastic lining
inside to keep the air in.
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