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Special delivery: A half-century ago, the lunar rover arrived at the Moon

The mission expanded the amount of time astronauts could explore the Moon's surface.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — It's been 50 years since NASA astronauts strapped in and drove the first car across the Moon's surface.

In the time since, the space agency has used rovers to explore Mars and collect data to better understand parts of the universe only few have ventured into. The latest in a long line of Mars rovers is even getting ready to collect the first-ever Martian rock samples for Earth.

Those advancements have the Apollo 15 mission to thank for delivering the first Lunar Roving Vehicle to the Moon in an effort to expand the amount of time astronauts could explore its surface.

After landing on July 30, Commander David Scott and Lunar Module Pilot James Irwin drove the vehicle for more than 17 miles across the lunar surface for approximately 18 hours, according to NASA. 

The duo also spent time setting up experiments and collecting 170 pounds of samples before returning back to Earth.

"Scott conducted an experiment to test Galileo’s theory that objects in vacuum, without air resistance, would fall at the same rate," NASA wrote. "He dropped a geological hammer and a feather, which hit the ground at the same time, proving Galileo right."

While among the stars, Apollo 15 astronauts set several records. Here's a running list that NASA has kept over the years

  • Heaviest payload in lunar orbit history
  • Longest Apollo mission
  • Most lunar surface EVAs
  • Longest time in lunar orbit
  • First deep space and operational EVA

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