From Moonshot to Manned Mission: How GM Plans to go to the Moon 🚀

And how NASA's Artemis mission is improving EV tech at home

Just over 50 years ago, General Motors put an EV on the moon. As part of the Apollo 15 mission, GM developed the Lunar Roving Vehicle for NASA, producing two more for the subsequent Apollo 16 and 17 missions. Now, they’re ready to do it again—with the Lunar Mobility Vehicle.

Lockheed Martin

With the help of Lockheed Martin, GM is building an autonomous electric vehicle to map out part of the moon ahead of NASA’s manned-Artemis mission in 2025.

While the Lunar Mobility Vehicle will initially help NASA, the company is in talks with International Space Agencies for astronauts to pay to use the EV.

In a remote building on GM’s Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan is a laboratory like you’d see in the movies. A room divided in two by glass. On one end, a two-row computer screen-cladded control center manned by just a handful of engineers, and on the other, an automotive simulator.

Ansible Motion

The driver-in-the-loop simulator, originally purchased six years ago for the development of Chevrolet’s Corvette, sits on a moving platform around five feet off the ground and is fitted with two seats, a steering wheel, a throttle and a brake.

Before being used for the current project, it was an instrumental tool in the development of the Hummer EV.

Engineers were able to fine-tune the ride and handling of the Hummer using the simulator before even building a physical prototype, Brent Deep told The Detroit Free Press. The prototype wound up being “95% commercial ready.”

Deep led vehicle performance for the Hummer before becoming chief engineer on GM’s Lunar Mobility Vehicle—also known as the rover—exactly one year ago.


The Hummer EV project was GM’s “moonshot,” as it was always intended for its capability to far exceed conventional usage. An ode to this moonshot is seen in its interior design, wherein the speaker grille features an outline of the “Sea of Tranquility.”

The Ultimate Off-Rover

The Hummer EV’s combination of power output, wheel articulation, e-lockers and among other things, it’s Crabwalking feature is built for extreme off-roading. Naturally, Deep and his team looked to these features as being particularly useful on a hostile surface environment like that of the moon’s South Pole.

With the moon’s 500-degree-F temperature swings, deep craters and rough terrain, the rover may very well borrow some of the innovations from its terrestrial counterpart, while building upon the innovation with proprietary technologies developed with the knowledge acquired via simulation.

One such example includes taking the Hummer’s tuning, shrinking the wheelbase, track width, and gravitational forces, along with some other calculations to simulate a lunar environment.

Using 3D satellite imagery to create the moon’s simulated terrain, GM’s machine is encapsulated in a 280-degree display of the surface. This means that not only does the operator see a virtual moving surface, but will be able to experience the mapped bumps and dips.

Ansible Motion

The moon has 1/6th the gravity of Earth, so engineers are taking special precautions when designing the self-driving software to avoid the rover taking flight after driving up a bump too quickly or getting stuck in a crater.

Much like GM’s current and future fleet of EVs, the Lunar Mobility Vehicle will also be powered by the company’s Ultium platform. But given the environmental differences between the earth and the moon, engineers are testing whether their batteries can function safely on the moon.

Using T-Vac chambers, which control for temperature and can create a vacuum environment, GM’s engineers are able to simulate the extreme climate conditions that the batteries would be subject to in space. The tests are conducted incrementally with data extrapolated via modelling software, to paint a picture of just how the platform will perform in the Lunar driving environment.

GM’s Ultium Platform battery array in the Hummer EV.

Deep is hopeful that if the batteries can function on an inhospitable environment like the moon, they’ll certainly be able to withstand life on earth.

The Future of EV tech

As engineers learn more about the capabilities and limits the tech developed for the rover, they’ll be applying that knowledge toward future rover inventions.

These rover inventions will be shared with EV engineers as well, considering how much of the rover’s current tech borrows from the Hummer EV and GM’s EV platform.

This sharing strategy is expected to bring innovative EVs to market on a shorter timeline, much like how the Hummer’s development brought the BrightDrop commercial van to market in less than 20-months.

GM also forecasts that it will contribute to a fleet of rovers on the moon, but said that its timeline is dependent upon the commercial demand for the first one.

Published in News

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