In tests in the New Mexico desert, NASA ran the Rover against a couple of military-grade Humvees. The engineers tell us that after a few days, the army machines were ‘all torn up,’ while the Rover carried on oblivious. Former Apollo astronaut and original Moon driver Harrison Schmitt tried the Rover and was blown away by its ability, shortly before an engineer took the controls and nearly ran him down with a sneaky crab-steer maneuver. On the same test, two astronauts spent a fortnight in the Rover and kept themselves amused with DVDs and a stereo, just like they’ll do on the Moon. It even has cruise control.
So there you are, cruising the Moon inside your rig wearing a T-shirt and shorts, with some Ziggy Stardust blasting from the speakers. Or Brian Eno’s Apollo soundtrack spilling into the cabin as you gaze out on a beautiful Earth-rise.
As we scoot around the gray rockyard among the volcanic rocks, it’s hard to imagine what it really feels like to drive on the Moon. Only six men have ever tried. Apollo 16 astronauts Charlie Duke and John Young were the coolest of the lot, and they reported that in one-sixth gravity, the 1972 buggy felt nimble and floaty. “Man, this is a fun ride!” Duke said, before handing over to Young for the Lunar Grand Prix, the part of the mission where they tested the buggy’s handling. Young accelerated hard, and the Rover bounced out of craters. “He’s got about two wheels on the ground!” Duke yelled to Houston, “There’s a big rooster tail coming up off all four wheels, and as he turns, he skids. Man, I’ll tell you, Indy’s never seen a driver like this!”