A wide a variety of vehicles have been called “moon hoppers”. The name is perhaps most apt for the Rieter Cunegl.
The cunegl is based on the observation that the hopping of a kangaroo is a very efficient means of locomotion. When hopping at speed the kangaroo’s body works somewhat like a pogo stick. As it lands its energy is stored in the tendons of the legs. This stored energy is utilized to make the next hop. Using this system the kangaroo can hop at speed for considerable periods of time for very little energy expenditure.
The passenger model cunegl resembles a chair mounted on two mechanical legs. Each leg has three sections and ends in a pad that is designed not to sink into loose moondust. Each foot also has retractable claws for better purchase on rocky terrain.
Mounted on a pillar above the chair is an array of four thrust nozzles, arranged to point outward and downward. Thrust from the two rear nozzles assist the vehicle when it begins hopping. Thrust from the forward nozzles brakes the vehicle, even when it is not in contact with the ground. Firing the nozzles in various combinations can alter the trajectory of the vehicle during a leap.
Hopping behaviour is controlled by the vehicle’s computer. The driver merely has to determine course and speed. A lidar array scans each potential landing spot and configures the legs for the optimum configuration for either landing or another bound.
In the low gravity and airless environment of the lunar surface each bound of a cunegl can take it scores of metres at a time. These highly efficient vehicles can travel hundreds of miles across difficult lunar terrain on a single charge. The vehicle’s modest energy needs are easily met by a small solar panel.
Prospectors favour these vehicles since each hop takes them dozens of metres about the surface, giving an good view of surrounding terrain. In addition to the manned vehicle the same locomotive system is used on a variety of cybershells.
A wide variety of alternate names for the moon hopper may be encountered. These include “moon bunny”, “moon-roo”, “bounder” and “boomer”.