This Day in Tech History

On This Day . . .

Drivin’ on the Moon

800px-Apollo_15_Lunar_Rover_and_Irwin

July 26, 1971:  Launch of Apollo 15 and Lunar Rover

Apollo 15 was the ninth manned mission in the United States’ Apollo program, the fourth to land on the Moon, and the eighth successful manned mission. It was also the first mission on which the Lunar Roving Vehicle was used.

The mission began on July 26, 1971, and ended on August 7. At the time, NASA called it the most successful manned flight ever achieved.

The Scientific Instrument Module of the Apollo 15 Service Module.

The Scientific Instrument Module of the Apollo 15 Service Module.

Apollo 15 launches on July 26, 1971

Apollo 15 launches on July 26, 1971

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Commander David Scott and Lunar Module Pilot James Irwin spent three days on the Moon, including 18½ hours outside the spacecraft on lunar extra-vehicular activity (EVA).

David Scott's space suit on display at the NASM

David Scott’s space suit on display at the NASM

The crew explored the area using the first lunar rover, which allowed them to travel much farther from the Lunar Module (LM) lander than had been possible on missions without the rover.  They collected 77 kilograms (170 lb) of lunar surface material.

Lunar Olivine Basalt 15555 sample collected from the Apollo 15 mission. It was formed around 3.3 billion years ago.

Lunar Olivine Basalt 15555 sample collected from the Apollo 15 mission. It was formed around 3.3 billion years ago.

At the same time, Command Module Pilot Alfred Worden orbited the Moon, using a Scientific Instrument Module (SIM) in the Service Module (SM) to study the lunar surface and environment in great detail with a panoramic camera, a gamma-ray spectrometer, a mapping camera, a laser altimeter, a mass spectrometer, and a lunar sub-satellite deployed at the end of Apollo 15’s stay in lunar orbit (an Apollo program first).

Image from Apollo 15, taken by Commander David Scott at the end of EVA-1. Lunar Module Pilot Jim Irwin is seen with the Lunar Roving Vehicle, with Mount Hadley in the background. Seen on the back of the Rover are two SCBs mounted on the gate, along with the rake, both pairs of tongs, the extension handle with scoop probably attached, and the penetrometer. Note that the TV camera is pointed down, in the stowed position.

Image from Apollo 15, taken by Commander David Scott at the end of EVA-1. Lunar Module Pilot Jim Irwin is seen with the Lunar Roving Vehicle, with Mount Hadley in the background. Seen on the back of the Rover are two SCBs mounted on the gate, along with the rake, both pairs of tongs, the extension handle with scoop probably attached, and the penetrometer. Note that the TV camera is pointed down, in the stowed position.

One of a series of images taken as a pan of the Apollo 15 landing site, taken by Commander Dave Scott. Featured is the Lunar Roving Vehicle at its final resting place after EVA-3. At the back is a rake used during the mission. Also note the red Bible atop the hand controller in the middle of the vehicle, placed there by Scott.

One of a series of images taken as a pan of the Apollo 15 landing site, taken by Commander Dave Scott. Featured is the Lunar Roving Vehicle at its final resting place after EVA-3. At the back is a rake used during the mission. Also note the red Bible atop the hand controller in the middle of the vehicle, placed there by Scott.

James Irwin salutes the United States flag on the Moon on August 1, 1971

James Irwin salutes the United States flag on the Moon on August 1, 1971

 

A close-up photograph showing the chevron shaped treads on a wheel designed for an Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle

A close-up photograph showing the chevron shaped treads on a wheel designed for an Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle

A close-up view of a commemorative plaque left on the Moon at the Hadley-Apennine landing site in memory of 14 NASA astronauts and USSR cosmonauts, now deceased. Their names are inscribed in alphabetical order on the plaque. The plaque was stuck in the lunar soil by Astronauts David R. Scott and James B. Irwin during their Apollo 15 lunar surface extravehicular activity. The tiny, man-like object represents the figure of a fallen astronaut/cosmonaut.

A close-up view of a commemorative plaque left on the Moon at the Hadley-Apennine landing site in memory of 14 NASA astronauts and USSR cosmonauts, now deceased. Their names are inscribed in alphabetical order on the plaque. The plaque was stuck in the lunar soil by Astronauts David R. Scott and James B. Irwin during their Apollo 15 lunar surface extravehicular activity. The tiny, man-like object represents the figure of a fallen astronaut/cosmonaut.

An artist's concept showing TRW's small lunar subsatellite being ejected into lunar orbit from the SIM bay of the Apollo 15 Service Module. The 80 pound satellite will remain in orbit a year or more, carrying scientific experiments to study space in the vicinity of the Moon. The satellite carries three experiments: S-Band Transponder; Particle Shadows/Boundary Layer Experiment; and Subsatellite Magnetometer Experiment.

An artist’s concept showing TRW’s small lunar subsatellite being ejected into lunar orbit from the SIM bay of the Apollo 15 Service Module. The 80 pound satellite will remain in orbit a year or more, carrying scientific experiments to study space in the vicinity of the Moon. The satellite carries three experiments: S-Band Transponder; Particle Shadows/Boundary Layer Experiment; and Subsatellite Magnetometer Experiment.

 

NASA footage of Rover on the Moon

 

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