The Hungarian designer of the lunar rover has died

The Hungarian designer of the lunar rover has died

In his age of 97 died Ferenc Pavlics, the Hungarian-born designer developed the Apollo Lunar rover, who made the first man drive a car in space.

Ferenc Pavlics was born in 1928 in Balozsameggyes,  Vas County in Hungary. His father, Károly Pavlics, and mother, Rosina Perusich, were both teachers teaching in the elementary school of Balozsameggyes. At the age of six he almost died from a severe illness but recovered following an operation.

He attended the elementary school in Balozsameggyes. During the first years he was taught by his mother then his father. He attended the Faludi Ferenc high school in Szombathely and graduated in 1946. Pavlics attended the  Budapest University of Technology and Economics and graduated as a mechanical engineer in 1950.

He was working in the Industrial Machine Planning Institute (Gépipari Tervező Intézet). After the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the Pavlics family scattered around the world. Ferenc and his future wife, Klára Schwáb, went first to Austria, then to the United States. Three of his brothers and sisters also left Hungary, Anna settled in Austria, József in Sweden, and Teréz in California.

After leaving Hungary, Pavlics first was working from 1957 in the General Motors (GM) Research Division, in Detroit. From 1961 he continued his work in the Santa Barbara Division of GM developing overlands. He continued his postgraduate studies in the Univesity of Michigan.

Later, since the announcement of the Apollo program  in 1961, he was working for the NASA JPL and Boeing Company and he started the development of the Lunar Roving Vehicle. 

The rover had a total mass of 210 kg and was designed to carry a payload of an additional 490 kg. Each wheel had a 190 W (0.25 horsepower) motor (so the full motor power of the rover was 1 HP). It had a special vehicle design to be able to move on the special surface conditions of the Moon. Their frames were made of aluminum alloy. (It is colled as: Lunar rover.)

In 1971, the Apollo 15 carried the first Lunar rover to the Moon.  In 1972 the Apollo 16 and  Apollo 17 also carried Lunar rovers. All three vehicles remained on the Moon.

In 1971, Pavlics and his colleagues got a NASA award for the success of the Apollo program. Later, he participated in the development of hybrid and fuel cell driven vehicles and the electric bus network of Santa Barbara. Ferenc Pavlics died on February 13, 2024, in Santa Barbara.