Many General Motors fans are already well aware that the automaker developed and built the Lunar Rover that accompanies astronauts on the moon landing, but what they may not know is that the automaker was very nearly excluded from the project.
As recounted by business and technology publication Fast Company, NASA had no intention on taking a four-wheeled vehicle like the GM Lunar Rover to the moon. The organization had already attempted to develop its own lunar vehicle, but the prototypes it came up with were too bulky, too heavy and too expensive. But two GM engineers, Sam Romano and Ferenc Pavlics, believed they could develop a vehicle to meet NASA’s desired specifications, so they promptly set to work.
“I decided it can be done, it should be done, and we want to do it,” Romano said. “If there’s going to be a vehicle on the Moon, it’s going to be a General Motors vehicle, and I’m going to make sure it happens.”
It was a risky endeavor – Romano and Pavlics used GM’s own cash to bankroll the project whilst knowing that NASA had no intention of bringing such a vehicle to the moon. They eventually developed a radio-controlled scale model of their rover, which they drove into NASA engineer Wernher von Braun’s office, complete with an astronaut GI joe behind the wheel. This gave them the chance to explain their plan to von Braun, who slapped his hand down on his desk and said “we must do this,” after listening to the two engineers’ spiel.
Key to getting the project green-lit was the vehicle’s capability to fold up and fit into a tiny space. Romano and Pavlics had talked to engineers at Grumman beforehand and identified a very small, unused storage compartment that they were free to use if they could make the rover fit.
All told, the project cost GM a total of $38 million total in the early 1970s, equivalent to around $240 million today
If you want to learn more about the GM Lunar Rover, you can listen to Pavlics talk about the project in the video embedded above or read Fast Company’s in-depth story.
Source: Fast Company