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The New York Times
July 27, 2021

Automotive tire Motor vehicle Tire Automotive exterior Automotive design


50 Years Ago, NASA Put a Car on the Moon

Dave Scott was not about to pass by an interesting rock without stopping. It was July 31, 1971, and he and Jim Irwin, his fellow Apollo 15 astronaut, were the first people to drive on the moon. After a 6-hour inaugural jaunt in the new lunar rover, the two were heading back to their lander, the Falcon, when Mr. Scott made an unscheduled pit stop.

West of a crater called Rhysling, Mr. Scott scrambled out of the rover and quickly picked up a black lava rock, full of holes formed by escaping gas. Mr. Scott and Mr. Irwin had been trained in geology and knew the specimen, a vesicular rock, would be valuable to scientists on Earth. They also knew that if they asked for permission to stop and get it, clock-watching mission managers would say no. So Mr. Scott made up a story that they stopped the rover because he was fidgeting with his seatbelt. The sample was discovered when the astronauts returned to Earth, Mr. Scott described what he’d done, and “Seatbelt Rock” became one of the most prized geologic finds from Apollo 15.

Like many lunar samples returned to Earth by the final Apollo missions, Seatbelt Rock never would have been collected if the astronauts had not brought a car with them. Apollo 11 and Apollo 13 are the NASA lunar missions that tend to be remembered most vividly. But at the 50th anniversary of Apollo 15, which launched on July 26, 1971, some space enthusiasts, historians and authors are giving the lunar rover its due as one of the most enduring symbols of the American moon exploration program.

Foldable, durable, battery-powered and built by Boeing and General Motors, the vehicle is seen by some as making the last three missions into the crowning achievement of the Apollo era.

The moon car was also quintessentially American. The rover’s exposed chassis, umbrella-like antenna and wire wheels meant it looked like no car on Earth, yet its connection to the American auto industry and the nation’s love affair with the automobile captivated public attention like nothing since Apollo 11, Ms. Muir-Harmony said.

Starting with Project Mercury in the 1960s, a Florida car dealer allowed astronauts to lease Chevrolet cars for $1, which were later sold to the public. The Apollo 15 crew chose red, white and blue Corvettes. A photo spread in Life magazine showed the astronauts posing with their iconic American muscle cars alongside the moon buggy, making the lunar rover look cool by association, Ms. Muir-Harmony said. “There’s a lot to unpack in that picture,” she added.
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The final paragraphs of the article sum up the appeal of lunar rover to scientists and the public alike, both then and now:

"In May, General Motors announced a partnership with Lockheed Martin to build a new rover for NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to return American astronauts to the Moon this decade.

Although they were built decades apart and by different teams, the lunar rover program informed the first generation of Mars rovers, too, especially Sojourner, the first vehicle on another planet. Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where NASA Mars rovers are built, designed six-wheeled, flexible-framed rovers in a similar vein as early GM designs, Mr. Swift said. “I do think you find an inspirational lineage in that early GM work,” he said.

Science drives today’s NASA more than geopolitics, but the space agency still promotes and carries out human space travel for reasons that go beyond rock prospecting. Ms. Muir-Harmony said the lunar rovers of Apollo, and its modern successors, represent that sense of adventure.

“Science is such an important outcome of Apollo, but it is important to recognize what the public is engaged with. The appeal of the lunar rover is connected to the appeal of human spaceflight, which is being able to witness their joy and a sense of vicarious participation,” she said.
Plus, the adventure of driving across the moon, the greatest road trip of all time, is hard to resist.
Then and now, “samples and material from the moon are not getting the focus of public attention,” she said. “The rover is.”
 
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I thought this was going to be about the 1959 Cadillac.
 
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The final paragraphs of the article sum up the appeal of lunar rover to scientists and the public alike, both then and now:
I was just thinking of that when I read the title to this thread!

That is exciting in a mature way vs. the excitement of Musk launching a Tesla into space. One is practical, one is cool and splashy. Hopefully GM can get the word out of what it is doing vs. it being noted in articles that few will read.
 

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Well, they kind of did do this in the [email protected] 23 second mark:

While it was cool to see the Apollo era lunar rover, the video also highlights some of GM's failures in the past 15 years:
  • E85 ethanol flex fuel vehicles
  • Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles
  • Three defunct brands (Pontiac, Saturn, Saab) and one that went kaput but was recently resurrected (Hummer)
 

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While it was cool to see the Apollo era lunar rover, the video also highlights some of GM's failures in the past 15 years:
  • E85 ethanol flex fuel vehicles
  • Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles
  • Three defunct brands (Pontiac, Saturn, Saab) and one that went kaput but was recently resurrected (Hummer)
I don't think the Hydrogen fuel cell is a failure, however, the tech is going in a different direction than they thought back then.

E85 was just the in thing at the time, an attempt to give them green cred - didn't work.

And not touching the defunct brands - that's been beaten to death! :D
 

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My dad bought Cadillacs every year, but he passed on that year because he hated it
My father loved Cadillacs too. He did not like the '59. I thought it was super cool.

While it was cool to see the Apollo era lunar rover, the video also highlights some of GM's failures in the past 15 years:
  • E85 ethanol flex fuel vehicles
  • Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles
  • Three defunct brands (Pontiac, Saturn, Saab) and one that went kaput but was recently resurrected (Hummer)
IMO GM failed these brands, not vice versa. I was especially PO'd that GM totally dropped the ball on Pontiac. They needed to go find another John DeLorean. Instead they got some Irving Greysuits.

But as successful as John Z was, all the stuffed shirts hated him. And the feeling was mutual.
Despite all that, he was promoted to head of Chevy, a standard stepping stone to Big Boss. From what I've read, Z-man couldn't stand the stiffs and the endless mind-numbing meetings with lesser men than he. Too bad. As The Big Man, he'd have probably lit GM on fire. In a good way.
 

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IMO GM failed these brands, not vice versa. I was especially PO'd that GM totally dropped the ball on Pontiac. They needed to go find another John DeLorean. Instead they got some Irving Greysuits.

But as successful as John Z was, all the stuffed shirts hated him. And the feeling was mutual.
Despite all that, he was promoted to head of Chevy, a standard stepping stone to Big Boss. From what I've read, Z-man couldn't stand the stiffs and the endless mind-numbing meetings with lesser men than he. Too bad. As The Big Man, he'd have probably lit GM on fire. In a good way.
The De Lorean designs at GM were cars you wanted to own. I can think of the GTO, the first Rivera? and the first Monte Carlo. Then came the mid 70s. And now you know the rest of the story.
 
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