Amid the 200 tons of space junk that litters the lunar surface, sit three barely-used Moon Buggies, left behind from the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 space missions. In fact, LRV-1 has less than 18 miles on the clock and still has its last pilot’s bible sitting on the dashboard. How’s that for a fifty-year-old ‘barn find’!?

Most people know of the famous Moon Buggies, but what is less well known is the story of the NASA’s Moon Monkeybikes. With Apollo payload space at such a premium, NASA’s best boffins were secretly at work developing electric minibikes as an alternative form of transportation to allow Apollo 15’s astronauts explore the surface of the moon, further away from the Lunar Module.

By early 1970, with the LRV project way behind schedule, NASA had already built its prototype electric lunar minibike with a 5/8ths horsepower motor and a 30 amp-hour battery. But with no atmosphere to absorb the radiating engine heat, NASA engineers came up with a weirdly low-tech beeswax cooling system. As the wax melted it absorbed heat from the motor. When the beeswax got too hot, astronauts would simply hop off and wait for the wax to cool and reset, before riding off again.

We all know that lunar motorbikes never actually made it to the moon. But they were kept as a backup, in case the first incarnation of the Lunar Roving Vehicle wasn’t ready in time.. The closest NASA’s Moon Monkeybike ever got to space was in zero gravity tests in NASA’s infamous Vomit Comet. Shame really. I’d have loved to have seen some low-gravity crater jumping … like a slowmo Evel Knievel. Oh, but you’d have to be careful where you landed; because amongst all that lunar litter those slovenly seventies spacemen had dropped on the moon, were 96 bags of piss and poo!

About The Author

Darryl can usually be found up to his elbows in some unloved piece of BL detritus when he isn’t snapping and scribbling for various print magazines or producing the book on road tripping or tally-ho adventurers. As an occasional presenter on CBS's Carfection YouTube channel, his other hobbies include vintage Scalextrics, ‘60s Bang & Olufsen and dabbling in grassroots motorsport.

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