Watch Chris Hadfield Gleefully Test Drive a Lunar Rover through Death Valley

Chris Hadfield is reliving all of our wildest astronaut dreams by driving a full-scale lunar rover across Death Valley in preparation for the rover’s future drive over the Moon’s and even Mars’ surface. In a video, manufacturer Venturi Astrolab unveiled the full-scale prototype of the Flexible Logistics and Exploration (FLEX) rover, before former astronaut Colonel Chris Hadfield, ex-commander of the International Space Station and multiple space shuttle missions, got behind the wheel and drove it across Nevada’s Death Valley.

Death Valley provided the astronauts and their California-based engineering business with the ideal location to test their new rover since it is one of the most accurate representations of harsh conditions in alien habitats. Hadfield was having a great time racing over the parched environment (even if it was a very, very slow race). “Driving FLEX today was a lot of fun,” he adds in the video. “I mean, it’s simply a delight.”

The most important lesson, though, was the rover’s ability to wander about. The FLEX rover is said to be a versatile platform for missions on the Moon and Mars, with the unique selling advantage of being modular and adaptable for a variety of circumstances. According to Hadfield, one of the things astronauts learnt when they arrived at analog training locations was the need of mobility. With the Artemis mission to return humans to the Moon being planned and homes on the Moon – and potentially even Mars – being discussed, the ability to transfer people and stuff from one location to another will be more crucial than ever.

“Having a chance to drive that rover and see its potential, something that looks a lot like this quickly pops in my mind’s eye as something that will be helping people out when we start to live on the Moon – and eventually Mars,” Hadfield added. With NASA planning a return to the lunar surface in the coming years, the agency is enlisting the cooperation of private companies large and small to construct all of the necessary infrastructure.

While SpaceX has already been awarded a contract to build a lunar lander for NASA’s planned Artemis missions, Astrolab, a smaller but no less ambitious company, is hard at work developing a rover that it hopes will one day roll across the lunar surface. Astrolab, headquartered in California, has already created a prototype of its Flexible Logistics and Exploration (FLEX) rover, which former astronaut Chris Hadfield tested out in Death Valley’s bizarre environment.