Skip to main content

I rode the 'Lunar Rover' from 'Ad Astra' and it was awesome (video)

Out in the desert in New Mexico, in the dusty terrain bordering a commercial spaceport, I got the chance to take a wild ride in a "lunar rover." 

Why is "lunar rover" in quotation marks, you might ask? Well, the all-terrain vehicle that I rode through the desert never left tracks on the moon's surface and, in fact, wasn't even built by NASA or any other space agency to be used by astronauts on the moon. Instead, it is a stock Polaris RZR, which is a dune buggy made for tough terrain. It was also used as a mock lunar rover in the hit space thriller "Ad Astra." 

In the film (mild spoilers ahead), astronaut Roy McBride, played by Brad Pitt, has to travel across the lunar surface to a remote launch site. En route to the launch site on a rover, McBride is accosted by moon pirates, who are riding in slightly different rovers. (The vehicle that I rode appeared to be one of these "pirate rovers.") 

Watch: See a Sneak Peek of 'Ad Astra' Moon Action!'s Chelsea Gohd admires the back of the "lunar rover" used for the film "Ad Astra." (Image credit:

This scene was shot in Death Valley in the northern Mojave Desert in California and later edited to look like the surface of the moon. But, out in the New Mexico desert near Virgin Galactic's commercial spaceport, Spaceport America, I got a taste of what the desert chase was really like. 

At a media event supporting the Blu-ray and DVD release of the film, which was hosted at Spaceport America, I had the opportunity to ride in one of the vehicles that was used as a lunar rover in the film. The vehicle was driven by Eric Underwood, who worked as a stunt driver in the movie and a mechanic for the vehicles. He drove me around the desert and I got a chance to feel the thrill of "driving on the moon." 

The ride was exhilarating, and I felt like Apollo astronaut Charlie Duke, who co-piloted a real lunar rover on the moon's surface decades ago. And, while the vehicle didn't have tires made of zinc-coated piano wire and titanium threads woven into a chevron-pattern mesh (like the real lunar rovers did, to prevent the wheels from sinking into the soil), it gave me a tiny look into what such a ride might be like. 

Apparently, during the filming of the movie, the cast loved riding around in the rovers as much as I did. "Everybody was super excited," Underwood told me during the ride, referring to the cast. 

I attended the 'Ad Astra' media event for on a trip paid for by 20th Century Fox.

Follow Chelsea Gohd on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

All About Space Holiday 2019

Need more space? Subscribe to our sister title "All About Space" Magazine for the latest amazing news from the final frontier! (Image credit: All About Space)

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Chelsea Gohd

Chelsea Gohd joined as an intern in the summer of 2018 and returned as a Staff Writer in 2019. After receiving a B.S. in Public Health, she worked as a science communicator at the American Museum of Natural History and even wrote an installation for the museum's permanent Hall of Meteorites. Chelsea has written for publications including Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine, Live Science, All That is Interesting, AMNH Microbe Mondays blog, The Daily Targum and Roaring Earth. When not writing, reading or following the latest space and science discoveries, Chelsea is writing music and performing as her alter ego Foxanne (@foxannemusic). You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd.