Dave Scott wasn’t going to go through any interesting rocks without stopping. It was July 31, 1971, and he and Jim Irwin, his fellow Apollo 15 astronauts, were the first to fly to the moon. After a 6-hour opening in the new lunar rover, the two were heading back to their lander, the Falcon, while Mr. Scott made an uncontrollable pit stop.
To the west of a pit called Raisling, Mr. Scott slipped out of the rover and quickly grabbed the black lava stone, which was filled with holes to escape from the gas. Mr. Scott and Mr. Irwin was trained in geology and knew a vesticular stone, a valuable proof for scientists on Earth. They also knew that if they asked permission to stop and obtain it, the watch-monitoring mission managers would refuse. So Mr. Scott told a story that they stopped the rover because it was fidgeting with its seatbelt. This pattern was discovered when astronauts returned to Earth. Scott described what he did, and “seatbelt rock” became one of the most valuable geographical discoveries of Apollo 15.
As many lunar specimens were returned to Earth by the final Apollo mission, seatbelt rock would never have been collected if astronauts had not brought cars with them. Apollo 11 and Apollo 13 are NASA lunar missions that are very vividly remembered. But, on the 50th anniversary of Apollo 15, which began on July 26, 1971, some astronauts, historians and writers are crediting the lunar rover with one of the most enduring symbols of the American lunar research program.
Foldable, durable, battery-powered and built by Boeing and General Motors, the vehicle makes the last three missions in the latest achievement of the Apollo era by some.
“Each mission in the crude space program, starting with Alan Shepherd’s first flight, served as the foundation for the last three Apollo missions,” said Earl Swift, author of a new book about the lunar rover, “Across the Airless Wilds: The Triumph of the Lunar Rover and the Last Moon Landing.” “
“You see NASA has taken all that collected wisdom, it has plunged into space in the last decade, and apply it,” Mr. Said Swift. “It’s kind of a much more science swashbuckling.”
Tassil Moore-Harmony, curator of the Apollo collections at the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, said NASA once focused on science, focusing on Apollo’s geopolitical goals, satisfying Neil Armstrong’s small steps. When the first lunar eclipses recovered samples near their landing sites, scientists had long hoped for a lunar voyage that promised rare rocks. Plans for the lunar rover were finally given the green light just two months before Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans on the moon.
Although lunar buggies have been conceived for years, driving a car on the moon is more complicated than it seems. During the 1960s, engineers studied a variety of concepts: such as tank-like track vehicles, flying cars, a rotated monster-shaped, but Mr. Swift describes it as, “Like a big-legged Totsy Pop Pop, its round cabin is on top of a long leg, which in turn was run by caterpillar legs.” Eventually, a car-like buggy came out on top.
“There were other exotic ideas, like pogo sticks, or motorcycles – things I’m glad they don’t chase,” Ms. Muer-Harmony said. “The lunar rover is relatively practical in some ways.”
The lunar car was also outstanding American. Rover’s open chassis, umbrella-like antennae and wire wheels meant it didn’t look like a car on Earth, though its connection to the American auto industry and the nation’s love affair with automobiles attracted public attention, such as Apollo 11, Ms. Muer-Harmony said.
Starting with Project Mercury in the 1960s, a Florida car dealer allowed astronauts to rent a Chevrolet car for $ 1, which was later sold to the public. The Apollo 15 crew chose red, white and blue corvettes. A photo published in Life magazine showed the astronauts posing with their pagan American muscle cars along with the lunar buggy, making it look cool by the Lunar Rover Association, Ms. Muer-Harmony said. “There’s a lot to unpack in the picture,” she added.
Mr. Irwin and Mr. Once he and the rover landed on the moon, Scott helped drum up the excitement. During the second day of the mission, the astronauts went to a crater called Spur, where they found a huge white crystalline rock, a type of mineral on geologists’ wish lists because it could indicate the origin of the moon.
Astronauts can barely contain their joy: “Oh, boy!” Mr. Scott screamed. “Look at the glitter!” Mr. Irwin said. “Suppose we just got what?” Mr. Scott was radio on earth, like Mr. Irwin laughed happily. “Guess what we just found! I think we found what we were looking for. “
The white rock was later named Genesis Rock because scientists initially thought it was the date of the moon’s formation.
The excitement of the astronauts, and their car, brought the Apollo mission down to Earth, Ms. Muer-Harmony said. “Even as the moon’s exploration is becoming increasingly complex and intricate in its pursuit, it will provide an issue of access.”
Mr. Swift notes that some news reports at the time considered the rover “an almost ridiculous product of the most automotive people on earth,” although nothing was compelling about this equestrian vehicle from the outside world.
To travel with astronauts instead of using a separate rocket, the rover must weigh less than 500 pounds, but will have to endure twice as much in human and geological cargo. On the moon, it had to run more than 500 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature between sunlight and shade; Coping with lunar dust and micro-meteor ids traveling faster than bullets; And covers a sharp, hard surface consisting of mountains, pits, loose gravel and powder. GM and Boeing engineers threatened to complete their design in a timely manner for the final Apollo mission if NASA canceled the rover program before it could cancel the rover program.
“If it weren’t for some of General Motors’ engineers, there would be no rover, ”Mr. Swift said in an interview.
His book also explains that immigrant engineers, including Mikizisla Gregory Baker, who grew up in Poland, and Hungarian-born Frank Pavlix, exercised restraint after overcoming large budgets, despite the set deadlines and technical challenges. Although astronauts claim more of a spotlight, engineers played a seminal role in the space program, Mr. Swift spoke, and some like Mr. Baker and Mr. Pavlix highlights the impact immigrants have had on American innovation.
He wrote, “America’s race to the moon within NASA and in aerospace companies, on Americans who created hardware based on the minds and talents of immigrants – who began their lives elsewhere.”
Once the rover arrived and the astronauts landed it on the moon, the experience of driving was also unexpectedly fantastic. Astronauts compared it to other Earth transport: Shri. Irwin said the car overtook and fell like a “booking bronco” and Mr. Scott said he went into the aquarium like a speedboat when he tried to turn at a breakneck speed of 6 miles per hour.
The mission managers had to go on the rover’s journey only as long as the astronauts could walk, if anything and they had to put it back into space. But as NASA’s confidence grew, the Apollo crew covered more distances with each mission. When the astronauts left the moon, the rovers were left at the landing sites, where they live, collecting dust and cosmic rays. The spacecraft orbiting the moon occasionally takes pictures of them, and in some images, rover tracks appear.
The astronauts found more interesting stones, enabling scientists to ask a variety of questions, said Barbara Cohen, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, who studied the samples. The rover allowed astronauts to focus more on science than worrying about depleting oxygen or other consumer resources, he said.
She recalled taking part in NASA’s analog mission many years ago, where scientists would don a spacesuit and perform experiments at a desert field station as if they were on the moon or Mars. She reminded participants to get ready to collect samples and to be interrupted by mission controllers who wanted to check their wings.
“We were like, ‘Come on,'” she recalled. “It led me home that geography isn’t just in charge. It’s one thing the rover does for you; it enables you to ask a variety of science questions that specific sites May be more responsible. “
Genesis Rock, a mineral formed from the early days of the moon, Dr. Cohen’s issue. Scientists are still debating – how heavy – how the moon came and what conditions were there, and by expansion, here on Earth, for the first billion years.
Dr. Cohen is among the many scientists who are preparing to open untouched specimens that have been sealed since they returned home during the Apache 17 mission. He will study the noble gases in the samples to understand how solar radiation affects lunar dust.
Washington Washington, D.C. In the U.S. Catherine Burgess, a geologist at the Naval Research Laboratory, will study the original samples to measure how radiation from the solar wind affects the levels of hydrogen and helium inside the moon’s dust. The spacecraft can detect helium from orbit on the moon, but scientists still do not know how it changes in the lunar sphere. “Without confirming those samples, it’s still just an open question,” he said.
Future missions will use lunar helium, specifically a type called helium-3, as a fuel source for nuclear reactors. This means that the future pay generation of lunar rovers can be governed by the material that the first pay generation recognized its presence half a century ago.
Even when scientists study those original specimens, many are hoping for a fresh batch, sent home with a new generation of astronauts or collected by rovers descended from the original version. In May, General Motors announced a partnership with Lockheed Martin to build a new rover for NASA’s Artemis program, aimed at returning American astronauts to the moon this decade.
Although they have been built by different and different teams for many decades, the first pay generation of Mars rovers, in particular, Sojourner, was the first vehicle to be reported on the second planet by the Lunar Rover program. Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where NASA Mars rovers have been built, have designed six-wheeled, flexible-framed rovers in the same vein as early GM designs. Said Swift. “I think you get an inspiring descent in early GM work.”
Science drives NASA more than geopolitics today, but the space agency still promotes and does human space travel for reasons that go beyond rock prosthetics. Ms. Muir-Harmony said Apollo’s lunar rovers and its modern successors embody that spirit of adventure.
“Science is such an important result of Apollo, but it is important for the public to recognize what works. He said the appeal of the lunar rover is linked to the appeal of human spaceflight, which is able to see their sense of joy and fantastic partnership. “
Plus, the adventure of driving to the moon, which is the greatest road trip ever, is hard to resist.
Then and now, “moon patterns and materials are not getting people’s attention.” “There’s a rover.”