NASA is practicing for future lunar road trips, and reporters are invited to observe the activities. The annual Desert RATS, or Research and Technology Studies, field test will be held in Arizona during October, and NASA will host a media day on Oct. 24. The tests help NASA engineers identify transportation and spacewalking needs for NASA's return to the moon by 2020 and preparation for human journeys to Mars.
This year's tests will demonstrate an enclosed configuration for a lunar rover NASA has been developing since 2007. The rover has six independent wheels that can each turn a full 360 degrees and lift off the ground for maneuvering around and over obstacles. The addition of the pressurized module to the rover allows the crew to drive in shirtsleeves, only donning spacesuits to leave the vehicle for scientific observations or exploration tasks.For this year's tests, two teams of one astronaut and one geologist will conduct one-day and three-day drives of the rover with and without the pressurized cabin. Without the cabin, the crew operates the rover from rotating driving turrets while wearing spacesuits to protect them from the moon's dusty, airless environment.
Reporters will be able to observe and photograph the small pressurized rover and interview engineers involved with its development. For more information, including an agenda, and to R.S.V.P., reporters must contact Ashley Edwards at 202-358-1756 no later than Wednesday, Oct. 22. Reporters with reservations will meet at the U.S. Geological Survey office in Flagstaff, Ariz., by 7 a.m. MST for a NASA escort to the test site, where access is restricted. NASA requires a letter of assignment on company letterhead for credentials.
Organizations involved in the test are NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston; NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida; the Smithsonian Institution of Washington, the U.S. Geological Survey, in Flagstaff; Arizona State University of Tempe; the Mars Institute in Moffett Field, Calif.; and the Lunar Planetary Institute in Houston.
For more information about the lunar rover, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/constellation/main/lunar_truck.html
For more information about NASA's plans to return to the moon, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/exploration