Boeing employees and alumni, city and project leaders unveil the newly-constructed replica of the interactive lunar rover during a ceremony at the Lunar Rover STEM Festival at the accesso ShoWare Center on Thursday. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

Boeing employees and alumni, city and project leaders unveil the newly-constructed replica of the interactive lunar rover during a ceremony at the Lunar Rover STEM Festival at the accesso ShoWare Center on Thursday. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

Lunar party at the STEM Festival in Kent

City unveils lunar rover replica that will land in a renovated downtown park project

It was if Charlie Martin was back in time, testing and tuning the lunar rover, one of Boeing’s greatest contributions to the Apollo missions of yesteryear.

“We put the rover into a space chamber,” said Martin, who worked for 25 years in research and development as a Boeing aerospace technician assigned to NASA’s Apollo program from the late 1960s to the early ’70s. “We had an artificial sun, which was a 23-foot beam that completely covered the rover, so we did a complete mission as if it was on the moon. … They even put it on big shaker tables. It did everything we wanted it to do.”

Inside Boeing Building 1824 in Kent, Martin and crew put the rover to the test in simulation. They played a big role in American space exploration, providing a dependable, battery-powered “moon buggy” for astronauts to navigate the lunar surface.

Amid fanfare Thursday night, the 84-year-old Martin joined Boeing employees and alumni, city and project leaders at mid-court inside the accesso ShoWare Center to bring the rover closer to the public. The group pulled away a large blue sheet to unveil a newly-constructed replica of the vehicle during a ceremony at the bustling Lunar Rover STEM Festival.

Plans are for the interactive rover to land next year in downtown Kent at Kherson Park, 317 W. Gowe St., part of a space-themed installation at the park to recognize Kent’s legacy in moon exploration and to inspire youth to pursue career opportunities in aerospace and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)-related fields.

Boeing workers past and present, including lunar rover alumni, beamed as the public soaked in the sight of the vehicle.

“It’s a real moment of pride for me, not only being an employee of Boeing but also a Kent resident,” said Boeing corporate historian Michael Lombardi. “This generation will be able to see what I knew growing up here … that the people I lived next door to would go down the hill to Boeing, and they did something amazing.

“That’s who we are. That there are people in our community that do this sort of thing,” he said. “This is great inspiration to show (others, especially children) that they can do incredible things. We’ve done that here and they can do it too.”

Martin, long since retired as a technician, has become a teacher, sort of an historian today. He has visited groups throughout the area, telling the rover story. He makes time for children to explain how the rover came to be.

“This is great,” he said after sharing a moment in the rover’s seat on stage, pointing out the many functions of the rover to interested youth. “This is a fun time in life.”

The purpose of the project is education, connecting innovation and history of Kent Valley’s past to the possibilities of today and tomorrow for the next generation of scientists, engineers, technicians and explorers.

“That’s the whole point in what we are doing,” said Mayor Dana Ralph. “I am so proud of the work that we’ve done in the past, 50 years ago, that it has so much meaning still today. And just the idea to inspire all these kids to be able to do this again, I could not be prouder. This makes it real.”

The project continues to attract support.

The City Council approved earlier this year spending $123,615 for a company to build the replica, although more than $85,000 of that will come from private fundraising efforts.

The project got a boost Thursday when the Kent Lions contributed $10,000 to the effort. Boeing donated $25,000 to ignite the fundraising campaign. People can donate at ApolloLunarRover.com.

The rovers were first built at Kent’s Boeing Space Center in 1969. The three lunar rovers used in NASA’s historic Apollo Missions 15, 16 and 17 remain on the moon.

“This is the fourth one,” Ralph told the crowd, “and it’s going to stay here in the heart of Kent in our new space-themed park.”

Michelle Wilmot, city economic development program manager, led the campaign to get landmark designation for the vehicles. The eight-member King County Landmarks Commission in July unanimously granted the city landmark designation for the three lunar rovers.

The city recently received a King County Executive’s John D. Spellman Award for Exemplary Achievement in Historic Preservation category for its regional campaign for landmark designation of the rovers.

Thursday’s festival featured hands-on STEM activities for kids of all ages, displays, information and resource booths, and guest characters from Star Wars. More than 700 people attended the event, according to city officials.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

Kent’s Charlie Martin, 84, was a Boeing aerospace technician who worked on the lunar rover for the Apollo program. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

Kent’s Charlie Martin, 84, was a Boeing aerospace technician who worked on the lunar rover for the Apollo program. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

More in News

Drive-thru COVID-19 virus testing last week in the parking lot near Everett Memorial Stadium in Everett. A study by the University of Washington and UnitedHealth Group, conducted at Everett Clinic locations, found that a less-intrusive form of the coronavirus test would require fewer precautions by health care workers. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
New self-swab COVID-19 test is just as accurate, study finds

The study, under peer review, was led by an Everett Clinic doctor. It could speed up testing nationwide.

Life Care Center (LCC) of Kirkland is facing more than $600,000 in fines for its response to the COVID-19 outbreak in its facility. Samantha Pak/Sound Publishing
Life Care in Kirkland facing more than $600K in fines for COVID-19 response

The facility has until Sept. 16 to pay or address areas of concern or it will be terminated.

Dentist checking patient’s teeth. Sound Publishing file photo
Dental foundation serves Medicaid patients through COVID-19

The Arcora Foundation is also attempting to expand its urgent care database, allowing those with different insurances to use its services during the outbreak.

Fire displaces family of five at Kent home | Update

Thursday evening in 15000 block of SE 274th Place

Gov. Jay Inslee during a press conference April 2, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Gov. Inslee’s Facebook page)
Gov. Inslee extends stay-home order to May 4

As in other states, demand for intensive health care due to COVID-19 is expected to peak later in April.

City of Kent jail population reduced to 50 from 134

Bookings cut to prevent COVID-19 outbreak among inmates

Evelyn and Bill Allcorn. Courtesy photo
‘Don’t assume it can’t happen to you’

Federal Way resident shares story of her husband’s battle with COVID-19

Unemployment claims continue to climb

For the week of March 22-28, claims have reached more than 181,000.

Most Read