Mars Expedition Rover (MER)
NASA has plans for a manned visit to Mars in the 2037 time frame and as a part of that mission, will require a vehicle capable of sustaining four passengers up to as long as three weeks.
The design takes into consideration an incredible number of constraints required to survive in this hostile environment and then basically doubles the requirement for redundancy. The basic motive power for the MER is electric, but due to the requirement for continuous, reliable energy, a removable on board Dynamic Isotope System is required, This will be augmented by roof mounted solar panels. Which will be sufficient for shorter trips, and again redundancy.
The MER is driven by electric motors in each of its six wheels, and both sets of front and rear wheels are steerable. The tires tread band are constructed of a nano-carbon composite and a Solimide foam core. The tire and wheel geometry is set to a 5° camber to improve handling on slopes and sandy soil.
The MER is shipped in a knocked down state and will be assembled once on site. All materials have been chosen for light weight and strength. The main exterior body panels are made of a ceramic foam composite originally developed for the Space Shuttle for its thermal capabilities and repairability. Features of the design include an electric winch and manipulator arms at the front of the vehicle, an airlock for EVA, a fixed control deck, and interchangeable work modules depending on the each individual mission. These can include a crew module, a lab/shop module and a crane module. The MER can also be fitted with a dozer blade for clearing areas around the base station and creating roadways.