How Lunar Rovers Work

An LRV Stop on the Moon

­­Once the astronauts arrive at their destination, they stop and apply the parking brake. After climbing out, they realign both the high- and low-gain antennae to Earth so that they can communicate with mission control. Mission control operates the LRV's TV camera remotely while the astronauts deploy equipment and pick up rock and soil samples, which they place in the back of the LRV.

But how much can they transport in the way of rock samples? Although the LRV itself weighs 460 pounds (209 kilograms) on Earth, it can support 1,080 pounds (490 kilograms) fully loaded. That includes two astronauts in suits and backpacks (800 pounds or 363 kilograms), communications equipment (100 pounds or 45 kilograms), scientific equipment (120 pounds or 54 kilograms) and moon rocks (60 pounds or 27 kilograms) [source: NASA]. That's actually not a big weight allowance for samples if some bigger specimens happened to catch an astronaut's eye.

Once they establish their objectives at the site, the astronauts move on to another site and repeat their work. They visit multiple locations on a single excursion before returning to the lunar module to unload samples, rest and prepare for the next day's moonwalk.

This remarkable vehicle extended our range of lunar exploration. The longest single LRV drive clocked in at 20.5 miles (20.1 kilometers) at a distance of 4.7 miles (7.6 kilometers) from the lunar module during the Apollo 17 mission.

­Now that we've experienced the Apollo LRV, let's look at the much newer lunar rover concepts.