The lunar roving vehicle (LRV) transported two astronauts on exploration traverses on the Moon during the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions. The LRV carried tools, scientific equipment, communications gear, and lunar samples.
The four-wheel, lightweight vehicle greatly extended the lunar area that could be explored by humans. The LRV could be operated by either astronaut.
The LRV was the first manned surface transportation system designed to operate on the Moon. It marked the beginning of a new technology and represented an experiment to overcome many new and challenging problems for which there was no precedent in terrestrial vehicle design and operations.
First, the LRV must be folded up into a very small package in order to fit within the tight, pie-shaped confines of Quad 1 of the lunar module which transported it to the Moon. After landing, the LRV must unfold itself from its stowed configuration and deploy itself to the lunar surface in its operational configuration, all with minimum assistance from the astronauts.
The lack of an atmosphere on the Moon, the extremes of surface temperature, the very small gravity, and many unknowns associated with the lunar soil and topography impose requirements on the LRV which had no counterpart in Earth vehicles and for which no terrestrial experience existed.
The LRV was built by the Boeing Co., Aerospace Group, at its Kent Space Center near Seattle, Wash., under contract to the NASA-Marshall Space Flight Center. Boeing's major subcontractor was the Delco Electronics Division of the General Motors Corp. Three flight vehicles had been built, plus seven test and training units, spare components, and related equipment.
The LRV was ten feet, two inches (310 cm) long ; had a six-foot (183 cm) tread width; was 44.8 inches (114 cm) high; and had a 7.5-foot (229 cm) wheelbase. Each wheel was individually powered by a quarter-horsepower electric motor (providing a total of one horsepower) and the vehicle's top speed was about eight miles per hour (13 km/hr) on a relatively smooth surface.
Two 36-volt batteries provided the vehicle's power, although either battery could power all vehicle systems if required. The front and rear wheels had separate steering systems, but if one steering system failed, it could have been disconnected and the vehicle would have operated with the other system.
Weighing approximately 460 pounds (209 kg) (Earth weight) when deployed on the Moon, the LRV carried a total payload weight of about 1,080 pounds (490 kg), more than twice its own weight. This cargo included astronauts and their portable life support systems (about 800 pounds (363 kg)), 100 pounds (45 kg) of communications equipment, 120 pounds (54 kg) of scientific equipment and photographic gear, and 60 pounds (27 kg) of lunar samples.
The LRV was designed to operate for 78 hours during the lunar day. It could make several exploration sorties up to a cumulative distance of 40 miles (65 kilometers). Because of limitations in the astronauts' portable life support system (PLSS), however the vehicle's range was restricted to a radius of about six miles (9.5 kilometers) from the lunar module. This provided a walk-back capability to the LM should the LRV become immobile at the maximum radius from the LM.
From Press Kit, Release No: 71-119, Project: Apollo 15