For more than five years, NASA’s Curiosity rover has been roaming around Mars. While it’s been a great success, the lonesome robot is now showing the sign of aging, with its broken wheel. Even NASA’s modern technology couldn’t save them from the rigorous weather of Mars. To solve this problem, NASA has gone back to the middle age to create a superelastic tire. Based on the principals of chainmail armor, this game-changing tire can repel more deformation compared to any other non-pneumatic tire. Besides, this superelastic tire could survive any kind of extra-planetary abuse and ensures better tractions in next-generation rovers.
Unlike the Curiosity’s wheel, this new tire’s chainmail type material provides a lot more flexibility. However, as you can see in the video, it’s really difficult to penetrate it. Apart from that, NASA could also use this material to create lightweight, all-purpose shield for orbiting spacecraft to save them from heat and debris.
Besides this chainmail style configuration, NASA also used alloys like nickel-titanium (NiTi) to build the superelastic tire. This NiTi has the ability to deform up to 10 percent deformity and doesn’t even lose its shape.
“The use of a NiTi shape memory alloy yield a superelastic tire that is virtually impervious to plastic deformation,” says the team at NASA’s Glenn Research center.
NASA may not use this amazing tire on their next rover. However, they might use them in their new future designs, including some crewed exploration vehicles. They can also use them on earth.