A prototype for the lunar rover from NASA’s Apollo program has been sold for scrap by an Alabama man. NASA officials are not divulging any information on how he came into possession of the item.
The prototype was one version of what is known as the Local Scientific Survey Module (LSSM) and was massive in comparison to the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) that was eventually chosen for the Apollo missions. The 6-wheeled LSSM weighed over 4 tons, more than 17 times the LRV.
According to NASA, the location of the LSSM was discovered by a U.S. Air Force historian who noticed it parked in the backyard of an Alabama resident. After following up with the man in question, NASA learned that it had already been sold.
This was not the first time that NASA had lost parts of its history to the scrapyard, according to collector Robert Pearlman, “…at least two Gemini-era Astronaut Maneuvering Unit prototypes were recovered from a junkyard a number of years ago. One is now in a museum and another is in private hands."
The market for space memorabilia has seen prices for similar items selling for tens of thousands of dollars. Pearlman guessed at a possible price range for the LSSM, “"If it could be determined to be the same prototype that Wernher von Braun test drove, and if it was in restorable condition, and if the title to it was free and clear and if it was placed into a well-publicized auction, it's worth maybe $15,000 to $25,000. But, as indicated by all the 'ifs,' that's a blind estimate based on a little to no information. It could be more or less than that based on any number of factors."
Had NASA been able to recover the LSSM, it likely would have been put on display at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. That facility played a large role in the development of the LRV.