The ‘Lunar Rover: 1971-1972 (Apollo 15-17; LRV1-3 & 1G Trainer) Owners’ Workshop Manual’ has a fascinating history. The vehicle, not the book, that is. Authors Christopher Riley, David Woods and Philip Dolling even point out the Rover’s Science Fiction roots and even early ideas appearing in ‘Lost In Space’ and ‘Thunderball’.
A lot of the concern with creating the Lunar Roving Vehicle or mostly called by all as the Lunar Rover was weight and collapsibility and how deep the moondust was so that it didn’t sink. I remember at the time that there were real concern that even with the original Moon landing that the Lunar Module would sink and Neal Armstrong was tethered so he could be pulled out if he did start sinking into the ground. Fortunately, we know today that the dust was only a couple inches thick where they landed. Thicker levels of dust was found near the edges of craters. Reading the details about this here is extremely illuminating. Equally, the internal politics that nearly cut off funding to having a vehicle in the first place and then having it built on a cheap tender even more remarkable for such an expensive mission.
Like the previous book reviewed here about Apollo 11, the history of the development of the Lunar Rover centres on how to make a viable Moon transport buggy but keeping the weight down with maximum ability. No easy task. As noted later in this book, being able to drive ensured that the astronauts were not stretching their life-support technology and over-tiring themselves while conducting their sample taking further from their module. As the maps show, they really did step a long way from the Lunar Module in doing these task.
Looking at how the Lunar Rover was put together shows a variety of disciplines, not to mention some things being last minute changes and ad hoc in these unique prototypes. It’s rather interesting to learn that the steering is akin to the British black taxi.
The section dealing with navigation on the Moon surface brought up something about the confusion caused by the lack of visible clues in gauging distance. Remember that when you look out on a snow-laden day and why it looks so strange for such short distances. For SF, this is something that often gets neglected, including that compasses on places like the Moon don’t actually work.
Things I learnt or reminded of. Having the Rover white, like with all things space is a means to deflect heat. The Rover also needed some balance here to cope with the different extreme temperatures the Moon experiences and why it was never parked too close to the Lunar Module. Oddly, the first Rover had problems with its front wheels for its first day on the Moon, resolved by warming up by the second day.
My concerns as to where the folded-up Lunar Rover was placed, in the lower half, still doesn’t explain what it replaced. I looked up the other book, ‘Apollo 11: 1969 (Including Saturn V, CM-107, SM-107, LM-5) Owners’ Workshop Manual’ by Christopher Riley and Phil Dolling and it looks like one of the bottom stage’s fuel tanks was removed. Considering that that needed an extra 600kg weight and had to reduced the module’s ability to hover, it makes perfect sense. The earlier missions no doubt worked out how much fuel they would need to get a perfect landing.
It was interesting to learn how astronaut mission commander Dave Scott ensured that nothing was make-do with the safety belt and cut an existing one to ensure the manufacturers put one in that could be easily opened. It cost $50,000 a minute to be on the Moon and Scott didn’t want to waste minutes fiddling with something when he didn’t need to. I liked this story a lot, mostly because it reminds everyone that there was total involvement from both sides in getting what they want. Interestingly, Boeing got the Rover to NASA two weeks ahead of schedule.
Of particular interest to all of you who want the fine details, there is the complete astronaut guidelines booklet to how they put it together on the Moon. After that, give yourself a free hour to read about the first mission. Interspersed with that are comments from later missions which did occasionally break things up. I suspect had they covered each mission, the book would have been four times as big.
There are a lot of photos of the Rover being built as well as on the Moon, mostly at rest. Camera technology has moved on a lot in recent decades and it would be interesting to see how anti-shake cameras would be when Man once more steps out on the Moon.
This is a fascinating book as it gives insight in how things were built in the late 60s-early 70s relying on calculations on paper and slide-rule than computer and a lot of experimenting before the final mission. Even then, it was still a matter of fingers being crossed simply because the only way the Rover could finally be tested was on the Moon. It might not look the most glamorous ever wheeled vehicle but it was totally functional and never broke down. The astronauts who drove it still think that if the batteries were changed, that all four could still be driven today. If ever there is a manned mission to Mars, lessons learnt from this vehicle, especially in regarding to dust, then you can bet that its designers will have been inspired by learning about it from this book. Careful with the throttle.
(pub: Haynes. 192 page illustrated large hardback. Price: £21.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-85733-267-7)
check out website: www.haynes.co.uk