Did the astronauts have to assemble the Lunar Rovers?

Or did they just come down a chute from the LEM, straight from the dealer?
(And, did the re-sale value drop as soon as they rode off the lot in them?)

Would they still be operational today?

The lunar rovers were stowed in an external bay on the lander all folded up. The astronauts let down the panel and winched the rover out to the surface, and there were springs and such to help them unfold the rover. No, the rovers wouldn’t be operational today. The batteries were non-rechargeable. No doubt there’s been other significant decay in the systems due to the harsh environment they were left in.

Amy Shira Teitel has a great video showing one of the rovers being deployed.

The warranty was pretty poor - two days or 20 miles whichever came first.



The rover weighed 463 pounds on Earth, but just 77 pounds on the moon. It was apparently not uncommon for the astronauts to simply pick up one end of the rover (which would have weighed around 38 pounds) and move it sideways to reorient the rover on occasions when they could not turn it as tightly as they wanted using conventional steering, e.g. when reorienting for good lighting to take a quality photo. The resulting tire tracks (or lack thereof) in the lunar dust are often cited by moon landing deniers as evidence of fraud.

The Lunar Rover was deigned to be reused with a battery swap, so that alone doesn’t disqualify it from being operational.

Also it was 4-wheel steering, I seem to recall - and one mission, the front steering failed and one astronaut driving said it was like driving a motorboat with the rear steering.

Makes sense; they had relatively limited time on the Moon, so I’m sure NASA didn’t want them playing space-IKEA trying to put the thing together during their EVAs.

The other thing is that it was really hard to do any kind of detailed work in the spacesuits. The air pressure in the gloves, for example, made it hard to bend fingers. Think about trying to work with inflated balloons over each finger. It was something like that.

According to family lore, my grandfather’s first cousin’s father was an engineer who worked on the design of the lunar rover’s tires.

They’re kind of neat, designed as they were to work in a vacuum and to minimize the chance of a flat tire due to an air leak (as would be the case for a conventional pneumatically inflated tire). Instead, they were made of a woven mesh of zinc-coated piano wire to which titanium treads were riveted in a chevron pattern.

I’m fairly certain that if they could come up for sale that they would break all existing auction records for just about anything. I’m also certain that there are laws or treaties in place to prevent their sale. But 10,000 years from now someone will still want them.

Aha! I googled “are lunar rovers still drivable” and found an interesting discussion by some smart guys who seem to know what they’re talking about.

If they’d assembled them themselves, they could have avoided sales tax.

I learned from the comments in that link that the earth is actually flat, and that the CIA is doing its best to keep that a secret (and presumably has been actively repressing the work of Eratosthenes for over 4,000 years!).

I wonder if the moon is also flat?

They used *titanium *for the treads?

The old $600 screwdriver was probably titanium, also.

I bet if you crunch the numbers on how much it cost to get a pound of payload from the surface of the Earth to the surface of the Moon, the fact that they used titanium (as opposed to a cheaper material) is a complete non-issue. Here’s some data to start:

With those costs in mind, it might have even been the most cost-effective solution (in addition to being best material from a technical standpoint), considering titanium’s strength-to-mass ratio.

Here’s an initial stab at the relative costs in the following back-of-the-envelope calculation:

Take the inflation-adjusted figures above for the cost of the entire Apollo program of $288.1 billion, and the fact that the program delivered a total of six (6) lunar modules to the surface of the Moon (i.e. Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17). Each lunar module had a mass of 15,103 kilograms. This works out to a cost of $3,179,000 per kilogram of mass delivered to the surface of the Moon (in 2019 dollars).

The current cost for stainless steel is $1.45/lb, or $3.20/kg.

The current cost for aluminum is $1.58/lb, or $3.48/kg.

Finally, the current cost for titanium is $26.39/lb, or $58.18/kg.

So indeed, while the material cost of titanium is something like 20 times more expensive than aluminum or steel, the cost to get a kilogram of material to the Moon is something like a million times more expensive. Like I said initially, the cost of the materials used isn’t even a rounding error compared to the cost to get it to the Moon.

Incidentally, titanium certainly isn’t the most expensive metal used for space hardware. The visors on the astronauts’ helmets were coated in gold, and many satellites use gold-coated mylar sheets to protect them from solar heat. Cite.

These treads are on flexible tires made of wire mesh. Aluminum (the usual material for spacecraft and space hardware) is not suitable for parts that flex repeatedly by a large amount because it does not have a fatigue limit. The usual material for such applications (like springs) is steel, but titanium is much lighter. Density of titanium is ~40% less than steel.

Even today, using the SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket, the cost to launch something to geostationary transfer orbit is about $3000 per kg. So rounding the numbers from the post above to $4 and $60 for steel & titanium, if you can replace 1kg of steel with the same volume of titanium (i.e. 0.6kg), your material+launch cost goes down, from $3000 + $4 = $3004 to $30000.6 + $600.6 = $1836. Even if you replace 1kg of steel with 0.95kg of titanium, titanium comes ahead. Maybe even additional fuel that could make the difference between aborting the landing vs. hovering for a few extra seconds to find a landing site.

Of course there are other complications. Titanium is rather difficult to machine, so even if you ignore the material cost, titanium is more expensive than steel. On the other hand, saving weight is not just a matter of launch cost. If your spacecraft becomes too heavy for your rocket, and you were already counting on the largest rocket ever built, you can’t just pay a bit more to get it launched - it just won’t get launched at all. Even if you aren’t close to that limit, every kg saved means an additional science experiment, tool or spare part that could be taken there instead.

I think you mean the $600 hammer, and that has been thoroughly debunked. (Well, I guess “explained as being reasonable” rather than debunked.)

That’s a commom misconception - the gold colored foil on satellites aren’t gold coated mylar. They are aluminum coated polyimide. Polyimide is naturally gold/yellow colored.

Gold is used in spacecraft, but usually where very high reflectivity in the infrared is necessary. Which is fairly rare, except helmet visors, infrared telescope mirrors and some cryogenic applications. And of course most electrical connectors are gold plated, as they often are on non-space applications as well.

If you want to talk expensive materials - Plutonium-238 is around $8 million per kg. It’s the power source for the radioisotope thermoelectric generator. And Apollo-12 and later missions actually used some of these to power science experiments. The one that was on Apollo-13 is now somewhere in the bottom of the Pacific ocean.

Obligatory *Mad *magazine cartoon: https://i.pinimg.com/736x/9d/18/4a/9d184aa88e7c0c3945f7931eb6bfcacc--mad-magazine-magazine-articles.jpg

It’s kind of funny that NASA would repeat this misconception on their own government website. :rolleyes: