Musings of a Political Scientist

Lunar Rover on the Moon

Lunar Rover on the Moon by Bryan Brandenburg

Lunar Rover on the Moon

The Lunar Roving Vehicle or Lunar rover or LRV is a land vehicle for use on the Moon. Several of the Apollo Lunar Module spacecraft delivered lunar rovers to the moon.

The original cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to Boeing (with Delco as a major sub-contractor) was for US$19 million and called for delivery of the first LRV by 1 April 1971, but cost overruns led to a final cost of US$38 million. Four lunar rovers were built, one each for Apollos 15, 16, and 17, and one that was used for spare parts after the cancellation of further Apollo missions. There were other LRV models built: a static model to assist with human factors design, an engineering model to design and integrate the subsystems, two 1/6 gravity models for testing the deployment mechanism, a 1-gravity trainer to give the astronauts instruction in the operation of the rover and allow them to practice driving it, a mass model to test the effect of the rover on the LM structure, balance and handling, a vibration test unit to study the LRV’s durability and handling of launch stresses, and a qualification test unit to study integration of all LRV subsystems.

LRVs were used for greater surface mobility during the Apollo program J-class missions: (Apollo 15, Apollo 16, and Apollo 17). The rover was first used on July 31, 1971 during the Apollo 15 mission. This greatly expanded the range of the lunar explorers. Previous teams of astronauts were restricted to short walking distances around the landing site due to the bulky space suit equipment required to sustain life in the lunar environment. The rovers have a top speed of about 8 mph (13 km/h).

The LRV was developed in only 17 months and yet performed all its functions on the Moon with no major anomalies. Harrison Schmitt of Apollo 17 said, “….the Lunar Rover proved to be the reliable, safe and flexible lunar exploration vehicle we expected it to be. Without it, the major scientific discoveries of Apollo 15, 16, and 17 would not have been possible; and our current understanding of lunar evolution would not have been possible.”

NASA’s rovers have been abandoned and thus belong to the list of artificial objects on the Moon.