Dave Scott and Jim Irwin are the first to hit the Hadley Rille Trail in their brand new Rover. They will be the first to travel the trail. There may be others who follow as the centuries unfold, but they are the first to drive a wheeled vehicle from one place to another on a world other than the Earth.|
On the plain at Hadley where they have landed, Dave and Jim are surrounded by a whole new lunar world unlike any that we six astronauts who came before had experienced. The Apennine mountains, particularly Mount Hadley to the northeast, appear imposing and very close even though they are actually over four miles away. Later, when they arrive where the trail ends at Hadley Rille, Dave and Jim will see a deep canyon which is over a mile wide and over 500 feet deep. We earlier explorers were "flatlanders" compared to the Apollo 15 crew.
Important improvements had been made to their equipment as well. Their lunar module was able to carry more equipment and provisions, so they could stay on the moon for three days compared to our two days. Their suits and backpacks had been improved so they could stay outside longer and explore almost twice as long. Maybe most important, all we earlier explorers could do was walk around relatively close to our lunar module while Dave and Jim could drive their nifty electric car all over the place. Dave and Jim would eventually drive a total of 17 miles during three excursions.
As they approached Hadley Rille Jim reported, "I can see the bottom of the rille. It's very smooth." Dave would add, "the near side of the rille wall is smooth ... it almost looks like we could drive down in on this side, doesn't it?" Jim, in his calm matter-of-fact way added, "I'm sure we could drive down but I don't think we could drive back out."
Dave would report that, "driving was quite easy when we were on flat terrain. We could make 10 to 11 kilometers per hour. When we ran across the crater fields with a higher density of small craters of a meter or two in diameter we had to slow down to maybe 6 or 7 kilometers per hour." Driving the Rover was an adventure. Dave would later add, "this is really a rockin'-rollin' ride isn't it? Well, this is really sporty driving, and a super way to travel." Jim was excited as well. For him, the ride was bouncy and rolling, a combination of a bucking bronco and a rowboat in a rough sea.
Dave and Jim, along with Command Module Pilot Al Worden were the backup crew for our Apollo 12 mission. I remember following them closely during their mission and I felt they were able to do so much more than Pete, Dick and me. Dave and Jim were skilled geologists. For Apollo 12 they were the best backup crew ever and on Apollo 15 they proved they were an even greater prime crew.