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Apollo 15: How did NASA put a car on the moon?

Tulika Tandon

Apollo 15:

The missions of Apollo 1-13 are the most talked about but the mission of Apollo 15 which actually put a car on the Moon. David R Scott and James B Irwin were the first people to drive on the moon. 

What had happened?

  1. They drove for 6 hours in their inaugural drive and also collected samples from the moon that would be beneficial for the scientists on Earth. 
  2. On the West of the crater Rhysling, Scott found a black lava rock that was valuable to the scientists on their planet. 
  3. This was the Sea Belt Roc which was the most prized possession on the Earth when they returned from Apollo 15. 
  4. The seat belt rock collection was only possible because of the car driven by NASA. 
  5. The mission was launched on July 26, 1971 and this year it is the 50th anniversary of the mission. 

Requirements of a car on moon:

It was foldable, durable, battery-powered and built by Boeing and General Motors. The vehicle is seen by some as making the last three missions into the crowning achievement of the Apollo era.

The rover had to weigh less than 500 pounds so that it can  travel along with the astronauts instead of using a separate rocket, but bear twice that in human and geological cargo. 

On the moon, the rover had to operate in temperature swings of more than 500 degrees Fahrenheit between sunlight and night and also withstand lunar dust and micrometeoroids; and cover a sharp, rugged surface that contained mountains, craters, loose gravel and powder.

How did Engineers drive a car on the moon?

It's not easy as mentioned by both the astronauts who did it. Throughout the 1960s, the engineers studied concepts like tanklike tracked vehicles, flying cars and a rotund monstrosity shape. Swift called it, "“like an overgrown Tootsie Pop, with its spherical cabin up top of a single long leg, which in turn was mounted on a caterpillar-tread foot."

The rover’s exposed chassis, umbrella like antenna and wire wheels meant it looked like no car on Earth

Project Mercury started in the 1960s and then began the process of taking a car to the moon. It happened when a Florida car dealer leased the astronauts Chevrolet cars for $1, which were then sold to the public.

The crew of Apollo 15 chose red, white and blue Corvettes.

Once the rover arrived and astronauts unfolded it on the moon. Their experience of driving was also very odd as per them. When compared to other cars on Earth, Irwin said, “the car rose and fell like a bucking bronco”. Scott said, “it fishtailed like a speedboat when he tried to turn at the breakneck speed of 6 mph.”

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