Take a ride across the Moon with Apollo 16 commander John Young in this video, a stabilized version of NASA 16mm film footage captured during the first EVA of the mission on April 21, 1972. In what’s called the “lunar Grand Prix” Young pilots the Lunar Roving Vehicle, or LRV, across the dusty terrain of the Descartes highlands, the vehicle’s metal-mesh wheels kicking up plumes of regolith in the near-vacuum and 1/6th Earth gravity environment of the Moon.
If it looks like Young is just having a “grand” time, I’m sure he is—but he wasn’t just hot-rodding! Part of the mission was to evaluate the performance of the LRV with hard turn maneuvers and sudden stops. Ultimately he got the LRV up to a max speed of about 10 km/h.
“The tendency was to drive wide open or very close to that and take what you got. The best reference to speed control was the speedometer as I really didn’t have a feel for the difference between 7 and 10 kilometers per hour. I made the Rover end break out to show the engineers how it looked. It was no problem as all I had to do was cut back like I do when driving in snow…I didn’t get up to any great speed, maybe 10 clicks at the most, but the terrain around there was too rough and rocky for that kind of foolishness.”
— John Young, Apollo 16 Commander (source)
Built for NASA by Boeing, the LRVs were stored in a folded position belowdecks on the descent stage of the Landing Modules during the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions. They allowed astronauts to cover a much wider area, carry more equipment, and collect more samples while exploring the lunar surface than they could on foot—er, boot. During Apollo 16 John Young and Charlie Duke drive a total of 16.6 miles (26.7 km) during over 20 hours of EVAs.
Video via YouTube user britoca