Boeing began building the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) at the Kent, Wash., facility in 1969, and the first vehicle was delivered just 17 months after the contract was signed.
It looked like a golf cart, or a stripped-down dune buggy, but was an engineering marvel. Equipped with a color television camera able to send images back to Earth via satellite, it traveled about 10 mph (16 kph), carried four times its own weight and had woven piano-wire mesh-like wheels to negotiate the strange lunar surface. An LRV traveled to the moon folded up and stuffed into a small storage space on the side of the Lunar Module on Apollo missions 15, 16 and 17.
The Lunar Roving Vehicles gave the astronauts the ability to do three times the amount of work done on the earlier voyages. The battery-powered vehicles operated faultlessly in temperatures ranging from minus 200 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 128 degrees Celsius) to more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93 degrees Celsius). After the Apollo program ended, the moon cars were left parked on the surface, awaiting the next generation of astronauts.
The legacy of the LRV, however, extended back to Earth, where its technology helped evolve the motorized wheelchairs that today provide many people with a way of negotiating around this world.
|First launch||July 26, 1971|
|Length||10 feet 2 inches|
|Width (to center of wheels)||6 feet|
|Power||Two 36-volt batteries powering four 1/4-horsepower electric motors (one at each wheel)|