Rove, rove, rove the moon

The moon rover, that dune-buggy, electric car that astronauts used on the moon, provides great motivation for exploring transportation on the surface of the Moon.

  • understand the problem of getting people around on a loose surface such as the Moon’s
  • apply that understanding to the construction of a land rover.


  • long cardboard box filled with dry, fine sand (3-4 ft if available)
  • wooden plank
  • toy car
  • materials to construct a “rover” – foam trays, small blocks of wood, plastic bottles, bottle caps, straws, tape, …

Moon rover demonstration setup]

“What would it be like to live on the Moon?” It would likely involve intra-moon transportation systems. And, as we live in a car society of self-contained, self-powered vehicles, capable of going anywhere at the driver‘s whim, the car would be good. This concept and this interest can lead to all sorts of experimentation and quantitative data collection.

  • Ask – Set up the long cardboard box with the dry sand. Place the “rover” on the end of the wooden plank and measure the distance the device moves across the sand. Observe what happens when you send a toy car down the plank onto the surface of the sand. Describe what you know of the Moon‘s surface and how the astronauts overcame the problem of the loose surface. What sort of rover could you construct that would move over the loose sand with ease.
  • Imagine – Work out what you want to do.
  • Design, Build – Construct your rover. Set up the experiment and run the rovers. Test the rover in the sand. Collect the measurements and graph the results. How did you go about solving the problem? How did you arrive at the final vehicle design?
  • Improve – Did you pre-test before the big day? Did you have to rework any ideas?

Engineering ideas
Do It
Challenges for you to work on…

  • Think about the idea of mass transit on the Moon. How might you go about adapting some of the vehicles you came up with? Why might it be very important to have mass transit rather than, or along with, “cars” that move people a few at a time?
  • In a moon colony, what does it look like, as far as transportation goes? What are some of the particular reasons for specific kinds of transportation on the moon colony? Are there any kinds of transportation they might need on the Moon that we don’t necessarily need here on Earth?

Learn more…