45 Years Ago Today, Astronauts Drove on the Moon

NASA (Public Domain)
NASA (Public Domain) / NASA (Public Domain)

On July 31, 1971, NASA astronauts Dave Scott and Jim Irwin drove the first Lunar Roving Vehicle on the moon as part of the Apollo 15 mission. It was the first time humans had experience driving on another world, and by all accounts, the LRV was awesome.

The LRV was used mainly to extend the astronauts' travel range up to a few miles from the landing site (for Apollo 15, the LRV traveled more than 17 miles in total). This allowed the science-focused missions of Apollo 15, 16, and 17 far more reach than hoofing it around the moon's surface.

Apollo 15 was notable not just for the LRV, but for being the first time postage was canceled on the moon ("By golly, it even works in a vacuum!"), and Galileo's famous hammer-versus-feather drop. Thanks in part to the LRV, they managed to collect 77 kg of lunar materials, including the Genesis Rock.

Here's a short documentary about the mission. If you thought Apollo 11 and 13 were exciting...well, they were, but so was this. Enjoy:

If you're super into NASA history, here's an event from 2011 in which Dave Scott and Al Worden remember the late Jim Irwin and discuss the mission: