Boeing recently unveiled its lunar rover replica at the Lunar Rover STEM Festival at the ShoWare Center in Kent.
The replica was built by Boeing technicians to honor its three working predecessors used during Apollo missions 15, 16, and 17 between 1971 and ’72, which have remained on the moon to this day, and for which, the City of Kent received historic landmark designation. This makes Kent one of the only cities to have historical landmarks on the moon.
“We’ve got three on the moon. This will be the fourth one, and its going to stay down here on Earth in the heart of Kent in the new, space-themed park.” Mayor Dana Ralph told the audience before the unveiling.
The unveiling happened in the midst of the inaugural Lunar Rover STEM Festival, put on by the Downtown Kent Partnership, along with Boeing, NASA, The Museum of Flight, and Blue Origin. The event hosted hundreds of families as the ShoWare Center floor became a theater of discovery replete with businesses and foundations related to STEM fields and space exploration.
“It’s great to see so many people here, because I think it shows that we have really succeeded in what we set out to do,” said Michael Lombardi, Boeing’s corporate historian. “This project isn’t just about celebrating our past, which is pretty incredible, but it’s about looking toward the future. By revealing the lunar rover and telling the story, we want to inspire all these young people.”
The replica was designed to be interactive, with a turning wheel, adjustable joystick, and pressable buttons in order to inspire the community’s future generations to seek careers in the aerospace industry.
“When they opened the space center [in Kent] in ’65, Boeing brought thousands of people to work there. These were scientists, engineers, well educated people living here and it changed our community and industry” Lombardi said.
New technology designed for the space program eventually made its way into our everyday lives. Today, electronically-controlled wheelchairs use the same steering technology used in lunar rovers.
“The lunar rover just looks like a fancy dune-buggy, but when you look closely at it, the technology is just fantastic,” Lombardi said. “When you talk about innovation, this is one of the best examples in history.”
According to Lombardi, the lunar rovers weighed around 460 pounds and folded up to easily fit into the rocket, and the wheels were spun piano wire coated in titanium, each with its own motor.
Although the newly built replica does not have all of the same features, it looks like it belongs on the moon. It will be permanently on exhibit at Kherson Park in Kent alongside space suits in which kids can stand and get their pictures taken.