NASA scientists are taking an unusual approach to materials science behind its upcoming lunar rovers and landers by building tough metal glass components.
The glass gears and gearbox, thankfully, are sturdier than they initially appear and have passed a series of rigorous durability tests, according to a NASA press release. The main selling point of moving away from traditional metals where possible, scientists say, is that glass parts can operate at significantly lower temperatures, allowing the rover to explore more parts of the moon without carrying energy-intensive heaters.
To make sure the metallic glass was up to scratch, NASA scientists subjected it to some extremely violent temperature and durability tests.
Scientists cooled it down to -279 degrees Fahrenheit (-1
Passing such brutal tests is a big deal, because metal-built rovers typically have to avoid particularly frigid and dark parts of the Moon to avoid extreme cold. But with the metal glass components, future rovers would be able to move forward.
“This is an exciting event as it demonstrates both the mechanical resilience of the bulk metal glass alloy and the gearbox design,” NASA project manager Peter Dillon said in the press release. “These gears could help enable potential operations during lunar night, in permanently shadowed lunar craters, in the polar regions on the moon and on ocean worlds.”
READ MORE: NASA’s new “metal glass” gears can withstand shocks and freezing temperatures during lunar missions [NASA]
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