May on the Moon
Posted: 20 May 2010
The most audacious machine ever made by man is still, to my mind, the original Apollo Lunar Module.
It remains the only manned spacecraft designed for use exclusively in space. For reasons of weight saving, it had to be built only just strong enough to survive a landing on the Moon. It also had to be able to perform the trick of a rocket-assisted descent, when all previous rockets had only gone upwards, and in the unique circumstances of one-sixth of the Earth's gravity.
No amount of Sixties slide-ruling could really predict, with absolute certainty, how the Lunar Module would behave, so the only way to test it was to take it to the Moon and try it out. This is what made Armstrong and Aldrin's first landing such a giant leap: it was more like a galactic bungee-jump by people who didn't know the exact properties of their piece of elastic. Next to that, building a car for use on the Moon looks straightforward, relatively speaking.