Lost NASA moon buggy which inspired Apollo 15 machines found in back garden
A lost moon buggy once used by NASA for its top-secret space programme has been found languishing in a back garden more than 40 years later.
Even though it appears to be a rusty footnote to space history, the spartan shell of the Lunar Rover vehicle is still worth an astronomical £110,000.
The craft, a Local Scientific Survey Module, was a prototype and never blasted into space but it was instrumental in developing the machines used on the moon for the Apollo 15 mission in 1972.
The buggy was developed by Brown Engineering, in Alabama, US, and was even driven by pioneering rocket genius Wernher von Braun, who was photographed inside it in 1965.
Despite being part of a top secret $25.4 billion Apollo project – $150 billion (£93bn) in today’s money – it was disappeared from NASA in the 1970s and ended up in a backyard in Alabama, about 50 miles from where it was built.
A US Air Force historian passed through the small town of Blountsville, Alabama, in 2014 and spotted it.
Little remained of the 10-metre long trailblazing ‘Brown LSSM’ after it was exposed to the elements for five decades.
Its intricate electronic engine, steering panel and antennae had vanished, with just a stark white painted metal frame remaining.
The large rubber tyres that once snugly clad its huge wheels also rotted away.
The historian contacted NASA but by the time the agency got in touch the owner he had died and the historic buggy had been sold to a scrap dealer.
Luckily, the dealer realised what it was, kept it and is now auctioning it.
It is estimated that it will need almost £40,000 worth of work to restore to its 1960s prime. It will be sold by American company RR Auctions.
Robert Livingston, executive vice president of RR Auctions, said: “This buggy is absolutely incredible and is a real piece of space history.
“It would just be amazing to get it restored and running but I’d imagine that would cost another £30,000 or £40,000 to get it back to its prime.
“It was just found in someone’s backyard and they sold it to a scrap dealer who thankfully realised what it was, if it wasn’t for him it could have been destroyed.”
“I’d imagine Silicon Valley types would be interested in this piece as they just love space and have the time and money to restore it.
“Whoever buys it though is going to need a lot of space to display it as it is huge.”
It will go under the hammer on April 21