NASA and Goodyear have been awarded a 2010 R&D 100 Award for their airless mesh tire design, intended to be used on moon vehicles. The extreme cold--and heat, in the sunny spots--of the moon plays havoc with rubber's properties, and solar radiation rapidly degrades rubber, so NASA and Goodyear came up with a tire made from 800 interwoven load-bearing springs.
"This tire is extremely durable and extremely energy efficient," noted Jim Benzing, Goodyear's lead innovator on the project. "The spring design contours to the surface on which it's driven to provide traction. But all of the energy used to deform the tire is returned when the springs rebound. It doesn't generate heat like a normal tire.
According to [NASA researcher Vivake] Asnani, the Spring Tire does not have a "single point failure mode. What that means," he said, "is that a hard impact that might cause a pneumatic tire to puncture and deflate would only damage one of the 800 load bearing springs. Along with having this ultra-redundant characteristic, the tire has a combination of overall stiffness yet flexibility that allows off-road vehicles to travel fast over rough terrain with relatively little motion being transferred to the vehicle."