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Apollo 15 lunar module pilot James B. Irwin loads up the lunar roving vehicle with tools and equipment in preparation for the first lunar extravehicular activity at the Hadley-Apennine landing site on July 31, 1971. A portion of the lunar module Falcon is on the left.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: David R. Scott / NASA

Astronaut and lunar module pilot James B. Irwin works at the lunar roving vehicle during the first Apollo 15 lunar surface extravehicular activity.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: David R. Scott / NASA

David R. Scott, Apollo 15 commander, sits in the lunar roving vehicle at the Hadley-Apennine landing site on July 31, 1971.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: James B. Irwin / NASA

Apollo 16 Cmdr. John Young, center, and lunar module pilot Charles Duke, foreground, inspect the lunar roving vehicle at Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 12, 1971.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: NASA

The lunar roving vehicle qualification unit, built for the NASA-Marshall Space Flight Center by Boeing, is inspected after assembly at a Boeing facility near Seattle on Jan. 29, 1971.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: NASA

Apollo 16 astronauts lunar module pilot Charles M. Duke, left, Cmdr. John W. Young, and command module pilot Thomas K. Mattingly II during a training exercise in preparation for the lunar landing mission Feb. 6, 1972.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: NASA

Apollo 16 astronaut Charles M. Duke Jr., pilot of the lunar module Orion, stands near the rover near Stone Mountain during the second Apollo 16 extravehicular activity at the Descartes landing site on April 22, 1972.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John Young / NASA

Astronaut Charles M. Duke Jr., lunar module pilot of the Apollo 16 mission, is photographed collecting samples during the first Apollo 16 extravehicular activity on April 21, 1972.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John W. Young / NASA

Astronaut John W. Young, Apollo 16 mission commander, drives the lunar rover to its final parking place on April 23, 1972.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Charles M. Duke Jr. / NASA

The Apollo 16 lunar module Orion is photographed by astronaut Chares M. Duke Jr., lunar module pilot, on April 22, 1972.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Chares M. Duke Jr. / NASA

The prime crew of Apollo 17, photographed with a lunar roving vehicle trainer in September 1972. They are commander Eugene A Cernan, seated, command module pilot Ronald E. Evans, standing on right, and lunar module pilot Harrison H. Schmitt.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: NASA

Apollo 17 commander Eugene A. Cernan and lunar module pilot Harrison H. "Jack" Schmitt prepare the lunar roving vehicle and the communications relay unit mission simulation on Aug. 9, 1972. Support team astronaut Gordon Fullerton, standing at left, discusses test procedures to be performed in the high bay of the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building. The lunar module ascent and descent stages also receive preflight checkouts in preparation for the sixth U.S. manned lunar landing mission.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: NASA

Astronaut Eugene A. Cernan, Apollo 17 mission commander, makes a short checkout of the lunar roving vehicle during the early part of the first Apollo 17 extravehicular activity at the Taurus-Littrow landing site on Dec. 11, 1972. This view of the "stripped down" rover is prior to load-up. This photograph was taken by astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt, the lunar module pilot. The mountain in the right background is the east end of South Massif.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Harrison H. Schmitt / NASA

Geologist-astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt is photographed standing next to a huge, split boulder at Station 6 on the sloping base of North Massif during the third Apollo 17 extravehicular activity at the Taurus-Littrow landing site on Dec. 13, 1972. The runar roving vehicle is at left.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Eugene A. Cernan / NASA

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Wheels on the moon

NASA knew that in order to properly explore the moon, walking wouldn’t be enough. Astronauts needed to drive.

This month marks 40 years since man has been to the moon during NASA’s Apollo program.  And the lunar roving vehicle gave astronauts the ability to explore the moon in ways they would never would be able to on their own.

The four-wheel, lightweight rover carried tools, scientific equipment, and lunar samples during the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions. NASA said it multiplied the amount of information the astronauts gathered by a factor of at least three.

To build the rover, NASA teamed with Boeing Co. and  General Motor’s Delco electronics division in Santa Barbara.

The rover was powered by two 36-volt silver zinc batteries. The wheels, traction drive, suspension, steering and drive control electronics to permit crossing the moon’s forbidding rocky terrain.

There is no GPS on the moon. Yet the navigation system provided astronauts with an accurate position to home base. The system recorded direction and distance traveled from a starting point, so astronauts knew how to return by the most direct route.

Read more by William Hennigan “Taking a look at the lunar rovers 40 years later

See also “Space shuttle Endeavour rolls through the streets of L.A.“:

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