KENT, Wash. — While the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong's historic walk on the moon, many Washingtonians might not realize that the iconic event has a King County connection.
When astronauts began walking on the moon, they needed a ride to explore the surface.
A lunar rover was developed for that exact purpose in Kent. The rover, a type of vehicle, gave astronauts the ability to travel miles away from the lunar landing module.
Retired Boeing engineer John Winch said it was "fascinating" and "stressful" to try and develop technology for conditions that don’t exist on this planet.
There were so many unknowns about what it would take to drive on the moon.
“The lunar dust was a big issue, the gravity was a big issue because you would bounce around on the moon, the propulsion was electric motors,” Winch said.
Winch said they were confident the rovers would work.
“We used a big space chamber in Kent for vacuum testing to make sure all the components would work properly.”
The rover wasn't about giving astronauts a joy ride: it was about helping them collect samples from miles away. Winch said they used Velcro straps to transport moon rocks back to the module.
The city of Kent is celebrating their contributions to the historic event. They're in the process of building a monument for their involvement in space history.
The city is also trying to get those rovers designated as historical landmarks. A public hearing will be held on July 25 regarding the designation.
“We're over the moon, very excited about it,” said Kent Mayor Dana Ralph. “It's sort of taken on a life of its own as we started uncovering this history, we've been able to talk to the historians at Boeing."