Driving vehicles on the Moon and Mars will encounter a few issues that we find here on Earth and will require further innovation to reduce maintenance and increase product life expectancy.
Having over 15 years in the mining and resources sectors has shown us exactly what fine dust can do to a vehicle, there is no better fine dust to visually see the spread of dusty material than that or iron ore. In the below images of our standard mining vehicle, you can see that the car doesn’t look to be all that effected by dust.
At first glance the vehicle looks nice and clean
Upon closer inspection you can start to see the obvious impact of driving over dust and also people getting in and out of the vehicle in a dusty environment, the dust size is closer to that which would be on Mars and much larger particle size than that of Lunar regolith. The wheels driving over fine dust creates a solid coating over the underside of the vehicle, the transfer from humans to the vehicle is noticed to be thick on the inner floor of the vehicle and around the entry/exit locations of the vehicle.
A closer look shows the presence of dust
With the inner floor removed it is clear the fine dust has worked its way into the smallest of gaps and through seals to form a thick layer deep inside the vehicle, the Lunar regolith being much finer than this dust would be able to penetrate with ease the best of seals with all of the dust inside the vehicle coming from passenger transfer.
Further inspection reveals the true extent of the dust
Every location that is exposed to the environment is coated with a thick layer of dust, the environment changing between low and high temperatures and with the addition of moisture allows the dust to leach into the paint and in some cases can eat away at the Chassis of the vehicle (this one still looks to be n great condition).
Majority of the dust from the harsh Australian outback is smooth compared to the abrasive and course Lunar regolith which will pack more of a punch to any vehicle that is intended to drive on the Moon surface and or Mars surface.
Open frame rovers are at very high risk of damage on the Moon and as these images show, so are vehicles that are enclosed and intended for human transport. The upside to future space vehicles is that new technology and design methods will prevent damage from dust and this in term could have a positive effect to the life expectancy of vehicles on Earth.
Now imagine dust particles 1/10th the size, 10x more abrasive, statically charged and with much lower atmosphere and gravity to slow them down. This issue also extends to habitats however that’s for another time.