NASA has just celebrated another great moment in the history of lunar exploration. The New York Times noted then July 31, 2021 brands 50th anniversary Lunar wandering vehicles the first outing – and the first time that people rode on the moon. Apollo 15 astronauts Dave Scott and Jim Irwin drove to the car to collect samples and explore the lunar surface more efficiently than they could on foot.
Scott and Irwin would eventually ride the rover two more times (a total of three hours) before returning to Earth. The Apollo 16 and 17 missions each had their own LRVs. There was a fourth rover, but it was used for spare parts after the cancellation of the Apollo 18 and further missions. All three serving models remained on the Moon.
Early development was problematic, in large part due to a lack of real-world testing conditions. After all, they couldn’t quite conduct a real-world test drive. The team eventually opted for a collapsible design with steel mesh wheels that could safely withstand the Moon’s low gravity, lack of atmosphere, extreme temperatures and soft ground.
The LRV was modest, with a range of 57 miles, four 0.19 kW engines and an official top speed of 8 km / h. It was also expensive, with cost overruns, leading to the price of four rovers at $ 38 million (about $ 249 million in $ 2021). It was key to improved scientific research in the later stages of the Apollo program, and it was also an early example of a practical electric vehicle — people used battery-powered lunar travel for decades before technology became mainstream on Earth.
We would not count on humans to ride on the moon soon, although this reflects the progress made over the past 50 years. NASA and other space agencies they are now focused on robotic rovers who can explore the Moon without worrying about crew safety. People who still go horseback riding will probably use autonomous vehicles. Think of this anniversary as a celebration of the first step towards the technology you see today.
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