Alabama Junkyard Scraps Important Piece of NASA History

50-year-old lunar rover prototype was spotted in tiny town
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 27, 2015 6:20 PM CDT
Alabama Junkyard Scraps Important Piece of NASA History
An Apollo-era lunar rover prototype met an ignominious end in an Alabama junkyard.   (NASA)

Some deep document diving by Motherboard brings us this story of a massive and massively historical NASA lunar rover prototype and the Alabama junkyard that destroyed it for some reason. Motherboard reports a US Air Force historian was visiting his mother in Blountsville, Alabama—population 1,700—when he spotted the Local Scientific Survey Module prototype in a neighbor's backyard. He alerted NASA in February 2014, but NASA—despite having an investigative division for the express purpose of recovering its missing property—was too slow, and the vehicle was sold and junked for scrap metal sometime later that year. "It is a shame that it couldn't be saved for posterity," the operator of a space memorabilia website tells Motherboard.

The junked prototype had been designed, built, and tested for NASA's Apollo missions in 1965 and 1966, Motherboard reports. It weighed more than 8,000 pounds and was 21-feet long and 15-feet wide. Apollo-era lunar rovers are rare—only a few were ever made, and three of them are still stuck on the moon—and NASA documents reveal prototypes often went missing. According to the documents, the junked prototype "represented an important step in the design and engineering of the final rovers utilized during the Apollo program." Motherboard says it was "priceless." NASA was hoping to recover and restore the prototype for educational and historical purposes. Because the NASA documents are so heavily redacted, we may never know how the prototype ended up in Blountsville and why it was scrapped. Read the full story here. (More NASA stories.)

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