31 July 1971

The Apollo 15 astronauts become the first to ride in a lunar rover.

Apollo 15 was the fourth manned mission in NASA’s Apollo program, which aimed to land astronauts on the Moon and conduct scientific experiments. It was the first of the “J-Series” missions, designed to include a more advanced scientific payload than previous missions.

Launch and Crew:
Apollo 15 was launched from Kennedy Space Center on July 26, 1971, aboard the Saturn V rocket. The crew consisted of three astronauts:

David R. Scott – Mission Commander
Alfred M. Worden – Command Module Pilot
James B. Irwin – Lunar Module Pilot

Lunar Landing and Exploration:
After a journey of about three days, Apollo 15 entered lunar orbit on July 29, 1971. On July 30, the Lunar Module (LM) named “Falcon” separated from the Command Module (CM) “Endeavour” and descended to the Moon’s surface. The landing site was located in the Hadley-Apennine region, an area of highlands near the edge of the Mare Imbrium.

Apollo 15’s extended stay on the lunar surface and its use of the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) allowed the astronauts to explore more of the Moon’s surface than previous missions. During their time on the Moon, Scott and Irwin conducted three moonwalks (EVA – Extravehicular Activities). They spent a total of about 18.5 hours on the lunar surface, covering a distance of approximately 17.5 miles (28 kilometers) with the rover.

Scientific Contributions:
Apollo 15 was notable for its extensive scientific payload and focus on lunar geology. The astronauts collected a significant amount of lunar samples, totaling about 170 pounds (77 kilograms). They also conducted a range of experiments, including the use of a drill to obtain core samples, the study of lunar rilles, and the deployment of various scientific instruments.

Perhaps the most famous scientific discovery during Apollo 15 was the “Genesis Rock,” a piece of ancient lunar crust believed to be around 4.1 billion years old, making it one of the oldest lunar samples collected during the Apollo missions.

Return to Earth:
After completing their mission on the Moon, the lunar module ascent stage rendezvoused and docked with the command module in lunar orbit. The crew then returned to Earth and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on August 7, 1971.

The Apollo 15 mission was considered highly successful, achieving its scientific goals while demonstrating advanced capabilities in lunar exploration. It also provided valuable experience in the use of the lunar rover, which was used on the later Apollo missions to cover more significant distances on the Moon.