The race for space motorcycles between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R.

The space race, a famous term used to define the period of the beginning of the conquest of space by States, allowed many scientific advances and marked the second half of the twentieth century. It was marked, at its beginnings, by strong competition between the United States of America and the U.S.S.R., for reasons of national prestige linked to the Cold War. But if most of the States were content, at the time, to put in place the necessary means to send men and women into space, and to explore outer space, the United States and Russia already had in mind the will to create space motorcycles capable of riding on the lunar ground.

It is the appearance of the race for space motorcycles between the United States of America and the U.S.S.R.. This race for space motorcycles began at the end of the 1960s, at the same time as the conquest of space itself. Indeed, NASA’s Spacecraft Design Division in Houston, Texas, began designing a minibike specifically for use on the Moon in the late 1960s. They wanted it to be small, portable and ideally foldable so that they would not have to redesign their existing landing vehicle.

The major problem NASA had at that time was not knowing what the surface of the moon looked like. Since the conquest of the moon was too recent, space agencies still lacked information about the composition of the moon and conditions in space, which made it difficult to develop American spacecraft. In addition, they did not have the same mathematical knowledge at that time as they do today, which made the design of space motorcycles more complicated. Another factor to consider was the weight of the space suits, which were extremely heavy and weakened the space motorcycles under their weight. The U.S. Space Agency had floated the idea of making metal tires to increase their resistance to the weight of the astronauts.

In the end, American space motorcycles never saw the light of day and were never sent into space, as NASA opted for the creation of the Lunar Rover (LVR), a battery-powered four-wheel rover used and sent to the Moon in the last three missions of the American Apollo 15, 16, and 17 program during 1971 and 1972, also known as Moon buggies. These moon buggies are easier to use than space motorcycles and can carry up to two astronauts at a time, whereas a space motorcycle could only carry one.

Meanwhile, Russia (the U.S.S.R. at the time) in the early 1960s, had called on the manufacturer Zvedza and the Soviet military station Almaz to develop prototypes of maneuverable space vehicles that unfortunately never took off. The idea sought by the Soviets was to allow cosmonauts to roll easily between space stations. In the end, neither of the two states were able to complete the design of these space motorcycles and this mission ended up being forgotten by the states in favor of other more important and accessible missions.