This is the Beetle Class Planetary Surveyor, a mobile operations base designed to scout new worlds.
There are two versions, the MkI as featured in this video, and the heavier MkII which you can see in the subsequent video clip.
Planetary surveying is an important part of Federation expansion. There are always new worlds requiring some form of detailed assessment, be it for colonisation purposes, military expediency, scientific research or the acquisition of minerals or fuel.
Whilst it is true that a great deal of planetary study takes place from orbital platforms or spacecraft, such assets are expensive to deploy across the vast distances of the Federation frontier. Placing a starship in orbit for months at a time is not practical or desirable, and dispatching automated drones with FTL drives in shotgun patterns across the skies can be an unreliable hit-or-miss affair that proves extremely costly for the taxpayer.
In addition, orbital surveys do not always reveal the true nature of an astronomical body, and more often than not, there is a need for "boots on the ground" to fully investigate the exploitable potential of a new world.
Current Federation doctrine dictates that all newly discovered planets or moons should be subjected to a brief initial orbital assessment, from which recommendations will be made regarding its suitability for further study.
Reports on those planets deemed suitable for study will be transmitted to Federation High Command where, in due course, a committee decision will be taken concerning the assignment of additional resources to study the world.
Once a decision has been taken, when time and resources allow, a science vessel will be dispatched and a central base will be installed somewhere on the planet's surface, giving the Federation a foothold on this new world.
Detailed assessments then take place from the main base, and in conjunction with long-term satellite cartography, survey teams will be assigned to crisscross the planet's surface to look for scientific anomalies, alien artifacts, valuable minerals or anything else of interest.
The "Beetle" Class Planetary Surveyor is a nuclear-powered, armour-plated, tracked, ground vehicle that offers a 100% sealed environment for Federation survey teams to allow them to operate on newly discovered frontier planets and moons in complete comfort and safety.
Able to withstand even the harshest weather conditions and patterns, the Beetle can traverse extreme terrain with ease and offers a high survivability rate for survey teams.
A typical Beetle can house a human crew of three in relative comfort, and is equipped with up to two labour droids as standard equipment.
Beetles will generally be deployed from ground bases, although they can also be dropped from orbiting mother ships, to be picked up at an agreed time in the future.
On harsh worlds, a Beetle can operate away from its home base (or mother ship) for up to a month without resupply, although in some instances, circumstances have forced longer deployments on the hard-pressed crews.
In friendlier environments, where the crews are able to leave their vehicles and/or safely breathe the local atmosphere, deployment periods can be as long as six months at a time, although generally this would require the addition of a disposable secondary cargo trailer for food and water.
Externally, the Beetle mounts a sophisticated and varied array of scanning and communications equipment. This includes active as well as passive sensors, radio aerials and a satellite uplink to allow the crew to perform two way communications with their main base or passing Federation vessels.
Internally, the Beetle contains two decks, one smaller, cramped lower deck where the crew sleep, eat and rest, and a larger (although still cramped) upper deck housing the command cockpit, a communications room, a laboratory, a scanning centre and an airlock to the rear hatch. The rear airlock contains equipment allowing the crew to undertake EVAs to investigate anomalies in person.
The rear hatch is typically the main entrance to the Beetle for the crew, and is where the vehicle will lock onto its assigned ground base. Sitting quite high off the ground, the crew would need to make use of the supplied ladder to climb down to the planet's surface.
There is also an upper hatch, with its own small airlock chamber, leading to the "roof" of the vehicle, allowing the crew to maintain the equipment sited on the top of the vehicle, or defend the Beetle against alien aggression, if necessary.
The front cockpit hatches can also be popped open if necessary, although they usually remain sealed.
The Beetle is not designed as a combat vehicle, but nonetheless, frontier worlds finding themselves in dire need when unexpected situations arise, have pressed their Beetles into combat roles, stripping the sensor equipment from the roof and using them as Marine assault vehicles.
The Beetle is fully equipped with LEGO Power Functions - and remote controlled to boot. It has a PF battery box, 2 M motors, one set of lights, an infra-red receiver and of course comes with a controller. There are 86 tread links per run, and four runs, plus 15 spares attached to the hull, a total of 359 parts, in treads alone!