Moon rover replica shines spotlight on space innovation in Huntsville

Polaris worked with the crew that designed the original lunar rover
Updated: Jul. 18, 2019 at 8:19 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) -To mark the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, a group in Huntsville worked on a special project to recreate the Lunar Roving Vehicle.

The rover flew on later flights when the astronauts realized they needed transportation on the moon.

Polaris joined forces with the crew who made the original to design and develop the replica.

There’s Ron Creel, thermal control engineer, and Sonny Morea, who was hand picked by Von Braun to head up the project. He was also project manager on the F1 engine which powered the Saturn V Rocket.

Craig Sumner also took part in the original lunar rover creation.

"I was a 21 year old co-op student at the University of West Florida working with the Marshall Space Flight Center on the design and development of the Lunar Roving Vehicle. I would come up here for three months, go back to school for three months. The Navy would even fly me up during my school week to participate," Sumner said.

He flew C-130s in Vietnam and came back to NASA. He worked on the Space Shuttle Program. He was the deputy project manager on the Space Shuttle external tank. He got to launch several launches from the firing room at Kennedy Space Center. He’s still in the game today. He’s working on the Space Launch System part time with Boeing as a subcontractor.

The men worked with Polaris on the most accurate, functioning replica ever made.

“These fenders were molded on the original molds that were used 50 years ago to create the molds that went on the actual lunar rovers that are on the moon right now. The Space and Rocket Center was able to locate those molds. They donated them to us so it’s a neat connection between past and present that we’re able to use the original molds on our vehicle today,” explained Taylor Gammon, Polaris Manufacturing Engineer.

Polaris got the original drawings from Marshall Space Flight Center of the hand controller so they were able to 3D print a hand controller to use on their vehicle that matches the original dimensions.

“On our LRV replica, we tried to use off the shelf parts from each of our Polaris divisions. Our A arms are from our Sportsman ATVs. The steering knuckles are from the Ranger lineup of our side by side vehicles. The steering rack came from our Slingshot on-road vehicle. The headlights and taillights came from our Indian motorcycles. The electric motor came from our Ranger EV electric vehicle. We’ve tried to include all aspects of the Polaris family,” stated Eddy Shipman, Pilot Engineer.

"Polaris is number one in off road and it doesn't get anymore off road than the moon," Gammon added.

The original team is still very passionate about space and the joint effort with Polaris pays tribute pay tribute to the important work done in Huntsville, then and now.

"I love it. It rides good," Sumner said about the replica "It's a safe vehicle that showcases the Polaris company and what they're capable of doing by building something that came off of all of their product lines so that the public can see what we did some 48 years ago on Apollo 15 and the following two missions that gave us a lot more capability to drive around on the moon."

A Lunar Rover Walk with the replica starts Friday, July 19 at 5 pm at the VBC and goes through downtown.

Polaris will have it on display at Big Spring Park.

It will be escorted by the Mayor and Rocket Center CEO Deborah Barnhart on the one-mile walk that begins at the Von Braun Center (700 Monroe Street) arena patio and concludes at the Madison County Courthouse in Downtown Huntsville as Dancing in the Streets festivities begin.

A brief media conference will take place before the walk that will feature remarks from the Mayor, U.S. Space & Rocket Center CEO Deborah Barnhart and Polaris Manager of Manufacturing Engineering Bryan Ogle.

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