Back in 1969, the Apollo 11 mission put mankind on the moon. It was a massive accomplishment. Two years later, though, people were getting bored. 40 years ago today, it become the moon buggy's job to make space fun again.
The Lunar Roving Vehicle, or LRV, accompanied Apollo 15 on its journey to the moon in July, 1971. It was an impressive, "elegant" piece of equipment, developed by NASA in only 17 months to the tune of $US38 million. It was light and compact, weighing only 460 pounds, and could travel at 8mph on the lunar soil. Not too shabby. It's payload was to be lunar specimens to be taken back for study, after having crossed an unprecedented distance on the moon's surface.
But when Apollo 15 astronauts David Scott and James Irwin sat down to take thing thing for a spin, it was all about the entertainment:
"Overall public interest had declined after Apollo 11," [Mike Neufeld, a curator in the space history division at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. told SPACE.com.]"The public was becoming more and more blasÃ©. Apollo 15 provided a blip upwards in public interest. Part of it was because the landing site was so much more attractive, and there were also more television broadcasts from the moon. But, the rovers were definitely a part of that. The public took a lot of interest in this new capability that the astronauts had."