WASHINGTON — NASA will participate in president-elect Barack Obama’s inaugural parade on January 20th in Washington DC, with a new moon rover prototype being the first ever lunar vehicle to have an inaugural parade before launch. The new rover, scheduled to be completed in approximately 12 years, will be driven by astronaut Michael Gernhardt. Also marching in the parade will be the crew of the latest shuttle mission: Chris Ferguson, Eric Boe, Donald Petit, Steve Bowen, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, Shane Kimbrough and Greg Chamitoff.

NASA hasn’t chosen a final rover design yet, but the one in the parade is the leading prototype at the moment, after excellent success on a three-day desert trek in Arizona in October. It represents a huge step forward from the first Apollo-era rovers as it does not feature an open-top construction. Its cabin is pressurized, which allows astronauts to move more freely inside, without being burdened by heavy spacesuits. The 12-wheeled vehicle averages a speed of 6 mph, which is more than enough to carry astronauts on the lunar surface. Future versions will undoubtedly feature larger speed capabilities.

The rover will go on display for Washington media the next day, spokeswoman Ashley Edwards said. NASA is proud to be able to send such a prototype to a presidential inauguration ceremony, because other parades have only seen ship crews and former astronauts in attendance.

Posted by: Soderman/NLSI Staff

Source: The Associated Press

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