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Grover the Geologic Rover: A Visitor Favorite

August 19, 2021

When visitors come to the Astrogeology Science Center, Grover the Geologic Rover is often the star attraction. Lunar Roving Vehicles (LRVs) played an important role in the last three Apollo missions, which allowed astronauts to cover greater distances, travel further from the Lunar Module, carry more gear and instruments, and retrieve more rock samples. 

Grover is the Lunar Roving Vehicles (LRV) that all the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 astronauts trained with in Flagstaff before they went to the Moon. Grover, now a museum piece, is displayed in the lobby of Astrogeology Science Center, Shoemaker Building, on the USGS Flagstaff Science Campus in Flagstaff, Arizona.  Although public visits are currently suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are continuing to conduct outreach through virtual events until we can reopen our doors and welcome visitors again.  

Meanwhile, meet Grover. 

Grover the Geologic Rover at USGS Astrogeology Science Center
Grover in the Lobby of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center. (Public domain.)

This roving super-hero was built by Astrogeology engineers in 1970, from the blueprints of the ones being sent to the Moon.  The only difference between this one and the LRV still on the Moon is that Grover had to be sturdy enough to work in Earth’s gravity.  Astrogeology scientists used Grover to provide training and lunar exploration planning to prospective Apollo astronaut crews on Earth. Below are some photos of its construction and use by Apollo astronauts. 

 

Construction of Grover; Astronaut Practice at Cinder Lakes
Fig.1. Construction of Grover; Astronaut training and practice at Cinder Lakes. (Public Domain)
Similarities and differences between Grover and the LRVs
Fig.2. Grover's use and operations. (Public Domain)
Astronauts drive Grover in the field and Grover operations.
Fig.3. Similarities and differences between Grover and the LRVs. (Public Domain)

Many of the Apollo astronauts have strapped themselves into Grover and have practiced driving on Moon-like terrains, called lunar analogs.  The Astrogeology Science Center and NASA constructed lunar analogs that resembled the geology and topography of Apollo mission landing sites to help astronauts with driving techniques and operations on lunar diverse terrains. Cinder Lakes, for example,  is a simulation of Apollo 11’s Mare Tranquillitatis landing site. Each Apollo mission had a unique landing site to investigate.

Today’s improved technology, robotic land rovers, benefited from lessons learned from awesome rovers like Grover and the 1-G LRV trainer.  Since the Apollo missions, scientists have sent commands and instructions to increasingly advanced robotic rovers on Mars to acquire images and other data. Among these rovers are NASA's late Mars Sojourner, the twin rovers Opportunity and Spirit, and Curiosity and Perseverance.

Our virtual visitors can watch the film "Grover" and see Grover in action from over 50 years ago. In the film, Grover can be seen working in the Cinder Lake crater field, which is about 12 miles from Flagstaff. To learn more, peruse other photos and details provided by our AstroLink facility.

 

References:

Schaber, G.G., 2005, The U.S. Geological Survey, Branch of Astrogeology---A Chronology of Activities from Conception Through the End of Project Apollo (1960-1973), USGS Open-File Report 2005-1190 (see https://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2005/1190/).