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NASA Moon

Alabama Man Sold a Priceless Apollo-Era Lunar Rover Protoype For Scrap Metal (vice.com) 241

Jason Koebler writes: An Alabama man allowed an Apollo-era lunar rover prototype to rot in his backyard before ultimately selling it to a junkyard for scrap metal last year, according to documents acquired from NASA as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. NASA spent much of 2014 attempting to acquire the priceless artifact for display in a museum, but it was ultimately destroyed before the agency could recover it.
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Alabama Man Sold a Priceless Apollo-Era Lunar Rover Protoype For Scrap Metal

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  • I'll bite (Score:4, Funny)

    by kencurry ( 471519 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2015 @02:36PM (#50811921)
    What the heck was he doing with a lunar rover prototype in Alabama?
    • by Thud457 ( 234763 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2015 @02:39PM (#50811939) Homepage Journal
      1. up on blocks.
      2. Huntsville.
    • by mitgib ( 1156957 )
      Alabama is the home on the Marshall Space Flight Center

      In 1961, when President John F. Kennedy envisioned an American on the moon by the end of the decade, NASA turned to Marshall Space Flight Center to create the incredibly powerful rocket needed to turn this presidential vision into reality. Since its beginning in 1960, Marshall has provided the agency with mission-critical design, development and integration of the launch and space systems required for space operations, exploration, and scientific mis

    • From TFA:

      How did this person end up with the rover in the first place? It's unclear. NASA did not respond to a Motherboard request for more specifics, but an attorney quoted in the report noted that early Apollo prototypes were rarely tagged and often went missing.

      Also, the person who sold it for scrap inherited it when the "owner" (who presumably acquired it from NASA and knew its value) passed away. NASA dragged its feet contacting the new owner, who apparently didn't know its value.

      • The response is a nice copy and paste from the article but does not answer the question how the guy in Alabama ended up with the unit. That's more than a pencil or slide rule going missing, that's an 8 TON VEHICLE!
      • Re:I'll bite (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cdrudge ( 68377 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2015 @03:20PM (#50812307) Homepage

        NASA dragged its feet contacting the new owner, who apparently didn't know its value.

        Sure NASA dragged it's feet. But I wonder if the historian walked over to the neighbor's house, knocked on the door, and mentioned that he though the guy had a piece of priceless artifact from NASA's history just sitting there. Even if the guy wasn't interested in contacting NASA right then, at least he would have known before he just scrapped it.

        • What about the scrap yard workers? You'd think that somebody along the line would recognize such an icon of American history, and get the idea that it might be worth more than scrap. It just boggles the mind.

          • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

            Depending on it's condition, it might have just looked like a backyard project or a "dune buggy" type vehicle. Based on the picture in the Motherboard link, I wouldn't have guessed it was a lunar rover prototype. Now maybe if it had NASA painted in giant letters across it...

    • Huntsville Alabama is where they hid Von Braun so he wouldn't get lynched. As a result, a lot of Space Research happens there. See "Rocket City Rednecks", a bad reality TV show where some NASA engineer spends his weekends making dumb shit out of junk with his redneck buddies.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by PopeRatzo ( 965947 )

        Huntsville Alabama is where they hid Von Braun so he wouldn't get lynched.

        They chose Huntsville because a nazi wouldn't stick out.

    • by lbmouse ( 473316 )
      "That's my Dad's shooting car. Just three more payments and it's ours."
    • Huntsville has a TON of NASA engineers and supporting cast. Auburn University has sent more astronauts to space than nearly any other university.

      Just because it's "Alabama" doesn't mean it's redneck. That's stereotyping at it's finest.

      The guy who died likely worked at NASA in the lunar program and possibly even designing the rovers. ...Frankly, it could have been this guy's: http://www.oanow.com/news/aubu... [oanow.com]

      • Just because it's "Alabama" doesn't mean it's redneck. That's stereotyping at it's finest.

        This should teach a useful lesson in tolerance to the citizens of that State.

    • It was looking for signs of intelligent life.

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2015 @02:44PM (#50811999) Homepage Journal

    He probably has a grudge against NASA for proving that the Earth isn't flat [nasa.gov].

  • by Rurik ( 113882 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2015 @02:46PM (#50812019)

    NASA Agency Bureaucracy Lets Historic Antique Slip From Their Fingers

    If it didn't take them six months to reach out... Even a quick call "Hey, this is NASA. We heard you have one of our rovers. Could we just send someone over to verify?"

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Krishnoid ( 984597 )

      I'd immediately know the call was fake. Now if it went, "Hey, this is Hollywood. We heard you have one of our rovers from the moon landing movie, and would like to buy it back ..."

    • I think they'll get over it.
  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2015 @02:56PM (#50812123)
  • norhing of value was lost.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2015 @02:57PM (#50812135)

    I like NASA. I like space exploration. However, I don't like NASA spending its limited time and resources to buy up antiques when it could be working on MORE space exploration.

    • by Aboroth ( 1841308 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2015 @03:11PM (#50812233)
      That is an extremely short-sighted viewpoint. Money isn't everything. First of all, if all you care about it direct funding from it, they would easily be able to monetize this by reselling it at auction. Putting it in a museum would enrich people's lives, which is invaluable. Having displays with things like this, are ways people get inspired to do what they can to help in space exploration, either through their own talents or with donations. These "antiques" could very well inspire the next generation of space explorers, which are kind of necessary because the ones we have now are expected to die at some point.
      • by GlennC ( 96879 )

        That is an extremely short-sighted viewpoint. Money isn't everything.

        I'm afraid that statement doesn't make much sense to a great number of Americans these days.

        Anything over 90 days is long-term, and money is how we keep score...the one with the most wins.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Also, a lot of a the original documentation for the rovers and the design process has been lost over the years. It was a long time ago... So having a prototype on hand could be quite useful for designing new rovers.

        It's the same with a lot of hardware, e.g. the Saturn V. We couldn't just build a new one, we would have to reverse engineer a lot of it from the ones we have left over.

        • Then perhaps one of the dozen or so prototypes scattered around in museums would serve the purpose rather than this 8000 lb 21 ft x 15 ft behemoth? This one didn't look anything like the real rovers, it was a test unit for a direction that wasn't taken.

          Here are the locations of the existing prototypes, I am sure the Smithsonian would allow some people to take measurements if needed to make a new one:
          http://www.collectspace.com/ub... [collectspace.com]

        • It's the same with a lot of hardware, e.g. the Saturn V. We couldn't just build a new one, we would have to reverse engineer a lot of it from the ones we have left over.

          It's the old IKEA problem. You never keep the instructions.

    • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

      I like NASA. I like space exploration. However, I don't like NASA spending its limited time and resources to buy up antiques when it could be working on MORE space exploration.

      It's PR, which NASA has to do to secure funding - if you don't like NASA doing PR, then give them a guaranteed funding source that's not subject to the whims of the government that changes funding priorities every 4 years for projects that take decades to complete.

    • Yeah because the money they would spend on this item would fund more space explorations *eye roll*
    • They do the "space exploration" thing like, well, rocket scientists.

      They do the "management/administration" thing about as well as Margaret's Knitting Knook.

    • Well said, sir!

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      What's more prototypes per se don't necessarily have any particular historical value; it depends on the role the specific prototype played in the program that led to the actual devices used. Without the documentation of what the particular hardware was for and how it was used, a device like that is a mere curiosity.

      For example 30 years ago I worked in a lab where about 10% of our floor space was taken up with a prototype manned Mars rover. It was by no means a serious essay on what would be required for a

  • ...is sure giving Florida Man a run for his money lately!
    • Is this anything like the phenomenon where if there is a natural disaster the on location news crew finds the dumbest guy within 100 miles to put on the air.

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        Nope. Not really. That whole area is its own special kind of special. I say that because I care - I do own a house in Florida and I have shared some of the many things I've seen there. Nope, they're definitely unique in some ways and this is one of those ways. It could be selection bias, I guess, but I don't think so.

        Put it this way... I own a house in PCB, the home of Spring Break - really. They have a week long period, out of sync with the rest of the country, that they call FAG week. FAG is "Florida, Ala

    • by geeper ( 883542 )
      ..now that Kentucky Man is out of the running...being cleared of shooting the drone and all.
  • by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2015 @03:09PM (#50812207) Homepage Journal

    Andy had the right idea. Build a rocket, go to the moon, and bring back all the scrap NASA left behind. Can't get over how much this mirrors "Salvage 1".

    Now all we need is some Monohydrazine.

    • by Dins ( 2538550 )
      Thanks - now I'm having a major fit of nostalgia... I watched the hell out of that show when I was 9 or 10 and loved it. It all just seemed so simple - we'll just build a rocket out of scrap! That's it!
  • I call dibs on the ones on the moon.

    There's three of them up there, just waiting to be salvaged.

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
      I'll pay you $1 million for one, on delivery to my front door.
      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        I'll pay 1,000,001. I'll even help you offload it into my garage - and I'll buy you beer. All the beer, and bacon, you can consume in a weekend.

  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2015 @04:48PM (#50812943)

    NASA spent much of 2014 attempting to acquire the priceless artifact for display in a museum

    Sounds like they didn't try too hard if they couldn't compete with a scrap yard.

    • NASA spent much of 2014 attempting to acquire the priceless artifact for display in a museum

      Sounds like they didn't try too hard if they couldn't compete with a scrap yard.

      The senate oversight committee is probably still deciding whether to approve NASA's first bid

  • by cmeans ( 81143 ) <{moc.raftni} {ta} {snaemc}> on Tuesday October 27, 2015 @05:45PM (#50813311) Homepage Journal
    Should read..."Alabama Man Removes Junk from His Yard". Of course, no one would believe it.

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