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From Family Station Wagon to the Apollo Moon Rover

The lunar rover may not have roamed the moon’s surface on the day Apollo 11 made history, but its design had already crystallized by the time Neil Armstrong stepped there.

On July 20, 1969, our family gathered around the TV in our northern Virginia living room to watch the impossible happen. As an eight-year-old I had questions: Would a man really walk on the Man in the Moon? Quietly my father had his own question of whether he’d win a bet with NASA’s director.

For me, Apollo is the story of that mid-level engineer behind the lunar rover, William Taylor. An army engineer struck by polio in his twenties, my father returned to work for the government after years of grueling recovery and physical therapy. For five years at NASA, he led projects to track Soviet space plans, survey the moon’s surface before landing, and put the rover on its axles.

We talked about his NASA story at different points, of course, but I’m glad he wrote about it in his memoir. Read his story and why I believe his experience with our family station wagon informed the lunar rover design in Smithsonian magazine. And see a fun photo of our actual station wagon.

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