I Just Can't Believe They Went to the Moon In This Thing

Illustration for article titled I Just Can't Believe They Went to the Moon In This Thing

When I looked at this photo my first thought was "Oh, what a cute paper model of the lunar module! It's so nicely done!" Then I read that this was not a model, but a photo of the real thing.

Yes, it's not something built with glue and cardboard, but the Lunar Module Challenger—the 17.9 x 14 x 13.3-foot spider spacecraft that took Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt to the surface of the Moon while Command Module Pilot Roland Evans orbited above them. If it looks fragile to you is because it was fragile. Or better said, strong enough to carry its mission but too fragile to fly anywhere but in space or the Moon.

At the time, the priority was to make it as light as humanly possible and give enough space to the astronauts inside, as well as any tools they needed (and to bring rocks from its surface on its way back to the Command Module). The ascent stage—which you can see in the photo—was only 10,300 pounds including its frame, engines, fuel, crew seats and the on-board computer. To give you an idea on how fragile this amazing spacecraft was, its walls were only 0.012 inches thick (0.03 centimeters) at some points. That's as thick as a paper sheet.

Apollo 17 was the final voyage of humans out of low Earth orbit and the final trip to another celestial body so far. It broke the record for longest manned lunar orbit and flight.


On the left video you can see Buzz Aldrin inside the Eagle, the first lunar module to arrive to the Moon, looking totally badass with his aviator sunglasses and doing his thing. [Facebook]

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