Rare, long-lost 1960s NASA moon buggy prototype discovered in Alabama scrap yard

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Oct 30, 2015, 1:11 PM EDT

Most relics from the Apollo era are sitting immortalized in museums, but it seems one piece of space history slipped through the cracks and ended up at the scrap heap. Literally.

Thanks to some snooping, Motherboard discovered that a legit, 1960s-era moon buggy prototype has spent the last year waiting to be destroyed in an Alabama junkyard — after accidentally being sold off by NASA as scrap metal. Oops. The mobile test article (aka pre-moon-buggy buggy) was built by Brown Engineering for the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., in 1965 and was used as a concept for the eventual moon buggy that made it to space (and is still sitting on the lunar surface). From there, it drifted into storage and eventually made it out into the wild, mistaken for junk.

In a crazy twist of fate, the 10-foot-long buggy was spotted in 2014 by a U.S. Air Force historian visiting his mother in the small town of Blountsville, Ala. Of all random happenstance, he spotted it in a neighbor’s backyard and contacted NASA, and the space agency eventually confirmed it was an actual moon buggy prototype. It was originally reported that the buggy was destroyed before anyone realized exactly what it was, though the owner apparently saved the buggy at the last minute. He’s reportedly planning an auction to sell it soon.

For those keeping score in regard to moon buggies: Three of them are still on the surface of the moon (since it’d be insanely expensive and impractical to bring them home) and one is at the Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. Those are important places, obviously. So, for one to go through this kind of journey and nearly get destroyed is astoundingly weird.

Check out the buggy in all its 1960s glory above and the current (less-than-great) condition below.

(Via Motherboard)