Who Invented the Automobile?
Who Invented the Automobile - Who Was the First to Drive on the Moon?
On July 31, 1971, NASA astronauts David Scott and James Irwin took driving to all new heights: Hadley rille on the surface of the moon.
The Apollo 15 astronauts were the first to use the Lunar Rover. Astronauts on three previous missions had been forced to walk, or more accurately, hop, across the surface. Scott and Irwin drove for miles across the surface, exploring areas far from the Lunar Module for the first time.
Made of aluminum alloy, the Boeing-built electric car weighed all of 463 lbs. (210 kg). It was hinged in the middle, allowing it to be folded up into a 5-foot by 20-inch (1.5-m by 0.5-m) space on the side of the Lunar Module. The Rover featured two side-by-side foldable seats made of aluminum and nylon webbing with Velcro seatbelts. Lacking doors, windows and a roof, it resembled a dune buggy.
With metal wheels and double wishbone suspension, the Lunar Rover was able to traverse across the moon's rough terrain at speeds of up to 11.2 mph (18.0 km/h). Scott and Irwin covered 17.25 miles (27.76 km) in three drives across the lunar surface. By the time Apollo 17 ended the moon flights the following year, three crews had driven the rover a total of 56.05 miles (90.2 kilometers).
Photo Courtesy of NASA
The moon was not a destination that Karl Benz had in mind when he invented the automobile in 1885. Although self-powered vehicles had existed in various forms, Benz is credited with invented and patenting the first modern car.
Born in Baden Muehlburg, Germany in 1844, Benz studied engineering at the Karlsruhe Polytechnic University. In 1871, he co-founded the Iron Foundry and Machine Shop. In search of extra income, Benz began developing motors and eventually founded Benz & Company to build industrial engines. He also placed one of his gas-powered, water-cooled engines on a motor carriage and outfitted it with an electric ignition and differential gears.
This horseless carriage, known as the Benz Patent Motorwagen, was a sensation when the inventor began driving it around Mannheim in 1885. No one had seen anything quite like it. It was a bit different from automobiles today, having only three wheels and, like the Lunar Rover, lacking doors, windows and a roof.
Sales were slow at first; Benz sold only about 25 of his expensive invention until 1893. There were no fuel stations; gasoline was available in small quantities from pharmacists as a cleaning fluid. Benz eventually built more affordable, four-wheeled automobiles for the mass market. By 1900, his company was the largest producer of automobiles in the world.
Benz & Company merged with rival Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (DMG) in 1926, forming the Mercedes-Benz. The company is known today as a luxury brand that has introduced many technological and safety innovations that have become industry standards.
Karl Benz died at his home on April 4, 1929 at the age of 84. The man who invented the automobile never lived to see it get driven on the moon. But, he would have been astounded and proud if he had.
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