Since NASA commenced with its Apollo space programs, the agency never considered sending a crewed rover to the moon. On July 26, 1971, NASA launched the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), alongside the Apollo 15 crew consisting of Commander David Scott, Command Module Pilot Alfred Worden, and Lunar Module Pilot James Irwin.
The astronauts were launched atop Saturn V megarocket. However, unlike past Apollo launches, NASA needs to come up with a new plan to accommodate its Lunar Roving Vehicle with a mass of 210kg. The LRV was built to carry a payload of an additional 490kg on the lunar surface.
The roving vehicles were designed to be stored folded inside the lunar module. Hence, the Apollo 15 astronauts did not experience much challenge in carrying the rover to the lunar surface. NASA built for LRV one for each Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions. NASA budgeted $19 million for the overall cost of the first LRV. However, the entire cost later reached $38 million.
How The Lunar Roving Vehicle was deployed
The lunar rover was folded and stored in the Lunar Module Quad 1 with its underside facing out. NASA designed the rover to be deployed from the LM quad 1 by the astronauts using a system of pulleys and braked reels with ropes and cloth tapes.
One astronaut would need to climb the egress ladder on the LM to release the rover. Once released, the second astronaut standing on the ground would slowly tilt it out using reels and tapes.
“The rear wheels folded out and locked in place and when they touched the ground the front of the rover could be unfolded, the wheels deployed, and the entire frame let down to the surface by pulleys. The rover components locked into place upon opening,” NASA wrote, explaining the procedure. ”Cabling, pins, and tripods would then be removed and the seats and footrests raised. After switching on all the electronics, the vehicle was ready to back away from the LM. The image at right shows an earlier version of the planned deployment which does not exactly match the final sequence, note for example that the rover is facing away from the LM after deployment.”
How Apollo 15 Landed on The Moon With the First Ever Lunar Roving Vehicle
When the Apollo 15 astronauts entered the lunar orbit on July 29, 1971, they began to prepare for soft landing. On July 30, 1971, NASA astronauts David R. Scott and James B. Irwin separated their Lunar Module (LM) Falcon from the command module and began to head towards the moon.
The two astronauts landed on the designated landing site named Hadley–Apennine on that same day at 22:16:29 UTC. Upon touch down, Scott and Irwin safely deployed the Lunar roving vehicle for the first time on the lunar surface. They used the LRV to explore the Hadley-Apennine area of the moon.
During their exploration, they studied and sampled material and also examined surface features of the region. The astronauts conducted several surface experiments and also performed inflight experiments on the moon. The Apollo 15 astronauts spent 67 hours on the lunar surface before returning to orbit to rejoin Worden.
Next Plan to Launch Crewed Rover to the Moon
As NASA is preparing for its Artemis missions, the agency is also looking forward to sending a crewed rover to help the astronauts explore the moon even better. Unlike the Lunar Roving Vehicle used during the Apollo Missions, the Artemis crewed rover will come with more sophisticated technologies. You can learn more about this Artemis lunar rover from here.