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Q. Who drove the first car on the Moon? — Susan G.
A. Apollo 15 astronaut David Randolph Scott was the first.
A lunar rover is a self-powered wheeled vehicle on the Moon. The American astronaut drove a lunar rover on the surface of the Moon in 1971. His "car" was named simply "Rover-1."
The lunar excursion module (LEM) that Scott and James B. Irwin used to land on the surface of the Moon was named Falcon.
In three separate excursions over three days, Scott and Irwin used the lunar rover to explore a narrow valley hemmed in on three sides by the 2,800-ft. Apennine Mountains and on the fourth side by a mile-wide canyon, Hadley Rille. They returned to Earth with 170 lbs. of rocks.
On a later Moon flight, in 1972, Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan snagged a hammer and ripped the fender on his lunar rover. He patched it with plastic Moon maps. Later, he dented the rover's tires while driving over Moon rocks.
The Apollo 15 flight, from July 26-August 7, 1971, was the fourth manned mission to reach the moon, and the first to carry along a lunar rover.
Russian rovers. Apollo 11 made the first manned landing on the Moon on July 20, 1969. In an attempt to dull the Apollo 11 publicity, the USSR had sent the unammned probe Luna 15 on July 13, 1969, on a mission to land an unmanned lunar rover on the Moon, pick up a soil sample, and return it to Earth. Luna 15 arrived in lunar orbit 48 hours before Apollo 11, but the attempt failed. The probe orbited the Moon 52 times, then crashed onto the lunar surface on July 21.
The first lunar rover to arrive on the Moon was carried to the lunar surface by the USSR's unmanned probe Luna 17 in 1970. Luna 17 landed at Mare Imbrium and sent out the instrumented robot Lunokhod 1 lunar rover vehicle to get soil samples and analyze density and composition. Lunokhod broadcast TV over its 2.5 mile range and observed stars with an X-ray telescope.
It was a year after that, in 1971, when Scott and Irwin landed on the Moon and were the first humans to drive a rover across the Moon. They drove their four-wheel battery-powered vehicle 17 miles along the front of range of the Apennine Mountains. They picked up rocks and soil and sunk probes which revealed a hot interior of Moon, maybe radioactive decay.
It was the year after that, in 1972, when Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt made man's sixth and last landing on the Moon, in the Littrow Valley at the foot of the Taurus Mountains. They took the longest ride in a Moon car, driving their lunar rover 21 miles at speeds of up to nine mph.
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