Moon Buggies

Photographs, videos and descriptions of making and
testing moon buggies or ‘lunar’ buggies


The surface of the moon very varied. It has large areas of fine dust as well as rocky areas. The land varies from being completely flat to steeply sloped and there are bumps and large craters with steep sides. The latest information leads scientists to believe that there is ice at the poles!


I didn’t know the moon was red!
This isn’t the Moon, it’s the planet Mars (the Red Planet)! there are two ROV’s (remotely operated vehicles or ‘Rovers’) on Mars at the moment. Look at the size of the wheels compared to the size of the rocks. It must be very difficult to remotely control a vehicle in terrain like this. If it gets stuck it might never get free again!

This project is about designing a motorized buggy which can travel over various types of terrain as well as considering the technical features and purpose of a buggy which could be manned or perhaps remotely operated from Earth.

Here are some pictures of motorized buggies They are being tested on slopes and different types of ground surface.


We can’t really decide upon the design of a moon buggy until we understand what job it is supposed to do and the conditions under which it will operate.

We should start by asking some questions...

  1. How far will it have to travel?
  2. What is the terrain like?
  3. What are the ‘weather’ conditions like?
  4. What and/or who will it have to carry?
  5. What tasks will it have to perform?
  6. What scientific experiments will it have to carry out?
  7. How will it be powered?


Based upon our research and the answers to the questions we can start to list the desirable features of the vehicle.

Our moon buggy should have the following features...

  1. Battery powered (because normal car engines would not work on the moon!).
  2. Solar panels needed to charge up the batteries. (How much sunlight will there be? - more research needed).
  3. Must be able to carry two spacemen (astronauts), rock samples, tools, camera, communications equipment, spare oxygen bottles, robot arm attached.
  4. 4 wheel drive with large wide wheels and good grip to drive over sand, gravel and small rocks.
  5. Spikes added to wheels if ice encountered.
  6. Powerful enough to go uphill (how steep? - more research needed).

How can we make a buggy with 4 wheel drive?

Here are some video clips showing how an electric motor can turn the road wheels using an elastic band (belt drive).

Two wheel drive

Four wheel drive

Modeling the buggy body and features

The chassis of the moon buggy has been made from expanded polyethylene modeling foam. Holes have been cut for the motor and battery. The axles sit in plastic tube bearings which are pushed into holes in the block. The wheels are a tight push fit onto the axles so that when one wheel turns it causes the other wheel on the same axle to turn. Connections are made to the battery using stranded wire and paper fasteners as contacts for the battery terminals. A switch can be added using an additional paper fastener.


Card and the usual modeling materials can be used to great effect in making the body of the buggy. Features such as the dashboard, ‘instruments’ and steering wheel etc. are very important! A ‘battery power indicator’ and a video camera screen would be essential features too!


Here are some working moon buggy models made by year 5 and year 6 children from two schools in Durham: St. Margaret’s Primary and Thornhill Primary.

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Buggy mayhem!
Buggies in various states of completion. The upside-down buggies are having modifications to try out different methods of 4 wheel drive including long elastic band ‘tracks’ which go around the wheel-pairs on each side - a brilliant idea by one of the pupils!

If you look closely at the picture below you can see the ‘track’ on the nearside wheels.

The tracked vehicle was the best one for grip on all surfaces whether rough or smooth.

One problem which was observed with the tracked vehicle on a flat surface  was that it went slower with the tracks on but faster when they were taken off! Why?

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Well done year 5 at Saint Margaret’s and Year 6 at Thornhill. Your ideas were brilliant and you really put your moon buggies through their paces!

With more time and resources it’s amazing what you can achieve! Here is a model I made when I was first asked to do the moon buggy project in a school...

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Making a product with a ‘quality finish’ always takes time and the correct materials. Card is fine but sometimes it’s not thick enough to obtain a strong structure. Gold or silver coated card is more expensive but produces a great effect.

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Sometimes the simplest additions can greatly enhance the appearance of a model.

Here I have used the bendy sections from two straws and some card to model a robot grab arm for picking up rock samples.

Next steps...

Perhaps the moon buggy project could be taken further by using a computer control system such as the Raspberry Pi and a control interface to programme a buggy to perform various tasks eg. travel to a certain place based on coordinates then retrieve a rock sample or take some photographs.

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