From the moon's surface to the Antarctic ice, when the going gets tough, you need a vehicle that can meet the challenge. By Simon Usborne


The latest concept car from Nissan is the dream vehicle for anyone whose office needs to be in the great outdoors. The Terranaut, designed for scientists, geologists, archaeologists or adventurers, is packed with gadgets and gizmos. The two front seats are pretty normal, but it's in the back that things get interesting. Modelled on the deck of the USS Enterprise shuttlecraft, the seat in the middle of the "spherical laboratory" swivels full circle to give scientists access to all the workstations, which can be customised. Outside, the paint is designed to withstand extreme temperatures, making this one tough 4X4.

Alma Transporter

When the scientists and engineers at the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (Alma), the world's biggest astronomy project, needed a vehicle to cart around the 66 mammoth radio telescopes that will make up the site (due to be completed in 2012), your average low-loader just wouldn't do. They needed something bigger. This summer, they unveiled two giant transporters capable of carrying the 115-ton antennas from base camp at 2,900 metres up to the site, 5,000 metres high in the desert of northern Chile. Each transporter has 28 tyres, weighs 130 tons, is 20 metres long and runs on two engines.

Lotus CIV

The Lotus Concept Ice vehicle in action

There are few environments more hostile than the windswept Antarctic ice. And there are few vehicles designed to travel there that look better than Lotus's new Concept Ice Vehicle (CIV), revealed last month. Conceived by a former Formula One chassis designer, it will be used by the Moon-Regan transantarctic expedition, which will cross the continent using biofuelled vehicles. The propeller-driven CIV runs on skids and is light enough to be dragged past the biggest obstacles. Crucially, it has ice-penetrating radar to detect perilous crevasses and other death-traps.

Rhino Runner

It may look like a Lego bus, but the appropriately named Rhino Runner is more durable than any toy. Custom-built by the Florida firm Labock Technologies, the toughest bus on the planet is designed to survive bomb blasts and gunfire. It's built with composite armour and bullet-proof glass, and is used by the US armed forces to transport VIPs; Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein got to ride in a Rhino. In 2004, one was just a few feet from a BMW when a 250lb bomb in the car detonated, blowing a 6ft-deep crater in the road and sending up a 1,000ft dust cloud. The Rhino's occupants were uninjured.

Lunar truck

Nasa has a rich history of innovation when it comes to vehicles, but none looks as cool as the space agency's new lunar truck. This prototype was tested recently at Moses Lake in Washington state, part of a series of trials in preparation for Nasa's planned return to the Moon in about 2020. Each of the crab-like sets of wheels can pivot individually through 360 degrees, giving the truck the ability to drive in any direction and get out of craters. It can carry up to four astronauts plus the tools they will use to reacquaint themselves with the Moon after an absence of almost 50 years.


Looking like the bastard child of an AT-AT Walker from Star Wars and a donkey, this is the modern-day version of the packhorse (without the need to feed it). Standing at two feet tall and more than three feet long, BigDog is the US Army's latest attempt to take a load off the shoulders of its soldiers. The 11-stone machine, created by Boston Dynamics, is designed to carry four packs of equipment over ground that would be impassable to wheeled vehicles. A video-camera system and onboard computers work in tandem with a laser gyroscope to keep it moving at about 4mph. BigDog even stays upright when kicked.