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The later moon missions didn’t grab as much attention as the first landing in 1969, but they had something very cool on the gear front: the lunar rover, a lightweight go-kart that gave crews unmatched mobility on another world
After traveling nearly a quarter-million miles to reach the moon’s Sea of Tranquility in July 1969, the Apollo 11 astronaut didn’t get much time to look around. His space suit was pumped up like an all-season radial. Grasping tools exhausted his hands in minutes. From inside his helmet, he couldn’t see his own feet. And the effort required to lope stiff-legged across the powdery surface guzzled the air and cooling water in his backpack, limiting his time outside the relative safety of the lunar module.
So it was that in man’s first visit to another celestial body, Armstrong and his crewmate, Buzz Aldrin, covered very little ground; the farthest either ventured from the lander was when Armstrong embarked on an unscripted jog for last-minute pictures and rock samples—about 65 yards. All their travels would fit inside a football field, with plenty of room to spare.
The Apollo 11 crew earned an enduring place in the annals of exploration, and rightly so, not because of what they did on the moon, but because they were there, and there first. The courage it required, the precision it demanded, and the sheer boldness of the undertaking thrilled the world. The names of Erikson, Peary, and Henson have likewise stayed with us. Amundsen and Cook. Magellan. Marco Polo.