50 years ago this week, the Apollo 15 spacecraft launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Apollo 15 mission is significant for numerous reasons. It was the ninth crewed Apollo mission, the fourth to land on the Moon, and perhaps most importantly, the first to use the lunar roving vehicle (LRV). While rovers seem commonplace today, it was a stunning achievement for NASA in 1971. To celebrate Apollo’s first LRV, we wanted to share a collection of images highlighting the development, deployment and use of NASA’s famous ‘moon buggy.’
The LRV was manufactured by Boeing and General Motors and featured four 0.25-horsepower series-wound DC motors in its drivetrain. While electric vehicles are a regular sight these days, the rover was ahead of its time. The vehicle, powered by a pair of silver-oxide batteries, had a 92km (57 mi) range. The moon buggy had a curb weight of 210kg (460 lbs) on Earth but weighed only 34kg (76 lbs) on the lunar surface.
Despite its stated top speed of 13 km/h (8 mph), on its final mission, Apollo 17, the rover topped out at a blistering 18 km/h (11.2 mph). The vehicle could carry a payload of 490 kg (1,080 lbs), including a pair of astronauts, various equipment and lunar samples to return to Earth. There were three LRVs taken to the Moon, where they all currently reside.
On Apollo 15, the LRV was driven by commander David Scott and pilot James Irwin. The third astronaut, command module pilot Alfred Worden, remained in orbit around the Moon. Scott and Irwin drove about 28km (17 mi) during the mission before parking the LRV a short distance from the lunar module. The LRV includes a plaque, which reads ‘Man’s First Wheels on the Moon, Delivered by Falcon, July 30, 1971.’