The Frank Tinsley “Lunar Unicycle”

Perspective free views of the Lunar Unicycle design.

I recently came across the Frank Tinsley illustration of what he called a “Lunar Unicycle”, which might be better described as a monowheel.

Lunar Unicycle Illustration
Lunar Unicycle Illustration

Despite the lack of many illustrations, the design seems clear, and I decided to do a 3d version of it in Lightwave. Though I did later find a couple more pictures…

How we will explore the Moon.
How we will explore the Moon.

The one above helpfully includes some notes on how it would be used! Also:

STEPS IN THE RACE TO OUTER SPACE.

“This 30-foot high Unicycle is designed for preliminary exploration of the Moon, once a base camp has been established. It’s entirely constructed of inflated, rubberized fabric, with the exception of strengthening members, hatches and a few other items. Electricity for the motors comes from solar batteries mounted in the “parasol.” The cleated, rotating wheel upon which the Unicycle travels is made of inflated tubes. A spare wheel, carried around the body, acts as a bumper in traversing narrow defiles. Living quarters make up a middle deck.”

Frank Tinsley Lunar Unicycle, in Colour
Frank Tinsley Lunar Unicycle, in Colour

I’m not impressed with the rather weird colour scheme used in the above picture, so I decided to ignore it.

Here’s what I came up with:

Perspective free views of the Lunar Unicycle design.
Perspective free views of the Lunar Unicycle design.

(Click the image for a larger version).

The support for the solar panel ‘parasol’ varies a lot between the different available pictures, I figure this one would probably work best.

The “wheel” around the equator of the vehicle is apparently a spare type for replacing the main one, should that be required.

This shot, not set on the Moon, shows the arrangement of the cabin.

Lunar Unicycle Cabin.
Lunar Unicycle Cabin.

I left off the solar panel for this one, so you can see the interior clearly.

Recovering Luna 9
Recovering Luna 9

This rendering shows an astronaut leaving the unicycle, to recover the first Soviet moon probe to soft land, Luna 9.

And if anyone is interested, this is the set-up I used for front projection, so the CGI model cast shadows onto the terrain.

Front projection wireframes
Front projection wireframes
Backlit view of the Tinsley Lunar Unicycle.
Backlit view of the Tinsley Lunar Unicycle.

This shows a backlit view – the yellow in the lunar surface is indirect lighting from the sunlit side of the Unicycle.

Frank Tinsley Lunar Unicycle, composiyted onto an Apollo photograph.
Frank Tinsley Lunar Unicycle, composited onto an Apollo photograph.

Nick

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