Apollo to the Moon

Apollo 15

Lunar Roving Vehicle

The Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV or Lunar Rover) carried two astronauts along with their life-support systems, scientific equipment, and lunar samples on the airless, low gravity surface of the Moon.

Astronauts would operate the LRV using the controls on the Instrument Panel. It had a range of about 92 kilometers (57 miles), allowing astronauts to place instruments and collect samples away from the immediate area of the lunar module. The vehicle had power for up to 78 hours of operation.

Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV)
Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV)

Lunar Roving Vehicle Qualification Test Unit on display in the Apollo to the Moon gallery at the National Mall building.

Lunar Roving Vehicle Control
Lunar Roving Vehicle Control
Close up view of Lunar Roving Vehicle instrument panel. Astronauts used these controls to drive the rover around the moon.

An LRV was first used by the crew of Apollo 15 on their mission from July 31 to August 2, 1971. Using an LRV, the astronauts traversed 25.3 kilometers (15.7 miles) during their explorations—far exceeding the total range of 6.7 kilometers (4.2 miles) covered by astronaut explorations on foot during Apollo missions 11, 12, and 14.LRVs were also used during Apollo missions 16 and 17. The three LRVs were driven a total of 88.3 kilometers (54.8 miles).

Vehicle Specifications

  • Length: 3.1 m (10 ft 2 in)
  • Width: 1.8 m (6 ft)
  • Weight on Earth: 210 kg (462 lb)
  • Weight on Moon (⅙ Earth gravity): 77 lb
  • Maximum Speed: 14 km/h (9 mi/h)
  • Wheel Base: 2.3 m (7 ft 6 in)
  • Ground Clearance: 35.5 cm (14 in)
  • Turning Radius: 3 m (10 ft)
  • Range: 92 km (57 mi)
  • Payload Weight on Earth: 490 kg (1080 lb)
  • Payload Weight on Moon (⅙ Earth gravity): 178 lb
  • Drive: One 186.4-watt (¼ hp) motor in each wheel for a total of 745.7 watts (one hp).
  • Power Source: Two 36-volt silver-zinc batteries

Lunar Roving Vehicle Diagram

Unfolding the LRV

As shown in this training exercise, the LRV was stored in a compartment on the descent stage of the lunar module. The wheels folded under the chassis for storage.

Once on the Moon and after releasing storage restraints, astronauts unfolded the rear section and lowered it to the surface. After the front section was similarly prepared, the astronauts released the LRV from the Lunar Module. The seats were then unfolded and two antennae, the communications unit, and the television camera were attached to the vehicle. After the astronauts loaded their lunar tools on the rear, they were ready to begin operations.

Lunar Rover Folded
Lunar Rover Folded

Remote Monitoring

The foil-covered television camera (visible on the left side of the image, under the LRV Antenna) was operated by Mission Control in Houston. This allowed ground controllers to monitor the activities of the astronauts and photograph the launch of the lunar module ascent stage.

Lunar Mission Control Camera
Lunar Mission Control Camera

Collecting Rocks

The sample bags were used to collect lunar rock samples to bring back to Earth for analysis. The flat bags (front) were used on Apollo 11. The cup-shaped bags (back) are a later design, used on Apollo 15-17, where each bag is numbered and could be held with an extension handle, designed to allow astronauts to collect rocks while riding on a Lunar Rover..

Moon Sample Bags
Moon Sample Bags