In videos of astronauts walking on the Moon, it seems very hard to move around with any efficiency, and it seems impossible to run.

Why is this? What could be done to mitigate these effects?

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    $\begingroup$ I would recommend you to watch the documentary Moon Machines (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_Machines), especially the episode 4 "The Space Suit". It explains quite well how the suit was designed and the difficulties to overcome to make it usable on the moon. $\endgroup$
    – Duom
    Sep 23, 2013 at 7:32
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    $\begingroup$ There's some comical footage of astronauts falling over. $\endgroup$ Jul 30, 2019 at 15:29
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    $\begingroup$ If anybody had the chance to walk there without wearing a heavy pressurized spacesuit in a large room with a breathable atmosphere, walking would be easier than on Earth. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Aug 1, 2019 at 16:30
  • $\begingroup$ related: Exactly how does one lope on the Moon? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Feb 25 at 21:32

3 Answers 3


More than anything, the reason for this were cumbersome EVA (Extravehicular Activity) suits used with the six Apollo program missions that landed on the Moon. They were basically a one-piece suit, each made to fit (custom tailored) each of the astronauts.

There were two basic configurations of the space suits used to support Apollo Missions:

  • An Intravehicular (IV) configuration designated as the CMP A7LB PGA and worn by the Command Module Pilot, Crew Commander and the Lunar Module Pilot during their stay in the Apollo Command/Service Module, and
  • An Extravehicular (EV) configuration identified as the EV A7LB PGA and worn by the Crew Commander and the Apollo Lunar Module Pilot during Lunar landing, for extravehicular activities on the Lunar surface, and during Lunar Orbit Rendezvous of the Lunar Module with the Command/Service Module.

We will be more interested in the latter, the Apollo EV A7LB PGA EV suit to answer the question though, since it was the suit used for extravehicular activities on the Moon's surface by the 12 moonwalkers. Here is a photograph of how it looked like:

   Apollo EV A7LB PGA EV suit

   Apollo 11 A7LB space suit worn by Gene Cernan on lunar surface. Source: Wikipedia on Apollo/Skylab A7L

So we mentioned they were custom tailored suits, but they also look pretty cumbersome on their own, let alone with the heavy Primary Life Support System (PLSS) with a separate Oxygen Purge System (OPS) mounted on top of the PLSS, both strapped on the astronaut's back. While the gravity is of course a lot smaller on the Moon compared to sea level gravity on the Earth (roughly 1/6), PLSS still weighed 6.4 kg (14 lb) and the OPS 3.1 kg (6.8 lb) on the Moon. That's additional 9.5 kg (20.8 lb) of bulk that each moonwalker had to carry around.

But that's not the whole story. The EVA suit itself weighed 34.5 kg (76 lb) on the Earth, translating to roughly 5.7 kg (12.6 lb) on the surface of the Moon, and we still didn't add the helmet, and the boots, and any other equipment standard on Apollo lunar EVA to the bulk, and all of that amounted to a total of roughly an additional weight of 18-20 kg (40-44 lb) that needed to be carried around at all times during the lunar EVA.

These roughly 20 kg (44 lb) might not sound as much, but try working with this bulk on your back for several hours, and you'll soon appreciate the weight. Quite literally. And that doesn't even account for the weight of any samples astronauts took from the lunar surface and needed to carry around in sample bags before returning them to the Lunar Module during each day's EVA. So while Apollo moonwalkers were rather happy with how their space suits were, with Neil Armstrong being quoted saying his Apollo 11 A7L space suit to be "tough, reliable and almost cuddly", they were also cumbersome to work in for longer periods of time, and astronauts weren't able to keep up with their packed tight schedules.

Of course, as Loren Pechtel commented, it's not merely the weight of the EVA suits in Lunar gravity, but their mass too. Inertia and Newton's first law of motion will prevent the suit to change speed and direction without a sufficient force to move its mass where the moonwalker in it intended to move. So they might weigh less, but they still have (more or less, they did get rather dusty and PLSS/OPS were not closed-loop systems) same mass as they did on Earth.

NASA soon realized this and included the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) in the last three missions of the Apollo program (Apollo 15-17) between the years 1971 to 1972 to help moonwalkers traverse distances needed to complete their scheduled duties:

   enter image description here

   The U.S. Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle from Apollo 15 on the moon in 1971. Photograph and following quote source: Wikipedia

LRVs were used for greater surface mobility during the Apollo J-class missions, Apollo 15, Apollo 16, and Apollo 17. The rover was first used on 31 July 1971, during the Apollo 15 mission. This greatly expanded the range of the lunar explorers. Previous teams of astronauts were restricted to short walking distances around the landing site due to the bulky space suit equipment required to sustain life in the lunar environment. The range, however, was operationally restricted to remain within walking distance of the lunar module, in case the rover broke down at any point. The rovers were designed with a top speed of about 8 mph (13 km/h), although Eugene Cernan recorded a maximum speed of 11.2 mph (18.0 km/h), giving him the (unofficial) lunar land-speed record.

The LRV was developed in only 17 months and performed all its functions on the Moon with no major anomalies. Scientist-astronaut Harrison Schmitt of Apollo 17 said, "The Lunar Rover proved to be the reliable, safe and flexible lunar exploration vehicle we expected it to be. Without it, the major scientific discoveries of Apollo 15, 16, and 17 would not have been possible; and our current understanding of lunar evolution would not have been possible."

So there we have it, hopefully answering all your questions, except maybe why none of the moonwalkers was seen running. Not an official explanation at any length, but I'd presume Apollo astronauts not to be of the easily scared variety, and not inclined to running for no good reason. There was a fair deal of jumping going on on the lunar surface, though:

   enter image description here

On a more serious note though, the PLSS and OPS systems had performance parameters that meant they will only be capable of sufficiently supplying oxygen, cooling down and circulating the air inside the space suit at a certain rate, to prevent the astronaut from overheating, excessive sweating, and using up the oxygen supply too quickly.

Even if one of the astronauts tried running, they would most likely be advised against it by their Flight Director, a person they would most likely obey, if for no other reason than respect for Gene Krantz, one of the Apollo program Flight Directors that also directed team efforts to save the crew of Apollo 13 and was in that position also for the first landing on the Moon by Apollo 11 Lunar Module (LM) named "Eagle", on July 20, 1969.

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    $\begingroup$ Another factor--you're only looking at the lunar weight of their gear. It still has Earth-weight inertia, though--you have to expend a lot of energy to get it moving and a lot more to stop it. $\endgroup$ Sep 23, 2013 at 18:27
  • $\begingroup$ AFAIK no astronautic investigation of low gravity has been done, but are there any serious ideas about how a human would move in Lunar gravity without a suit inside a habitat large enough to walk and run inside? $\endgroup$
    – LocalFluff
    Aug 13, 2014 at 17:48
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    $\begingroup$ @LocalFluff We have some question like that already on the site, for example How far can you fall on the Moon without injury?, Could you fly on the Moon, in Earth's atmospheric pressure, by flapping wearable wings?, and Will colonists on Mars have enhanced physical mobility relative to an Earth-normal environment? might be of interest too, but there's always room for more meaty questions on the topic IMO. ;) $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Aug 13, 2014 at 20:35
  • $\begingroup$ To get a somewhat similar experience here on Earth, try walking around in scuba gear - with the sort of wetsuit you'd use in colder waters. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Dec 4, 2016 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ Nit - that's not Aldrin in the first picture; his suit didn't have the red commander's stripe. It's not Armstrong either, since there weren't any good pics of Armstrong on the moon. Not sure who it is, though. $\endgroup$
    – John Bode
    Dec 7, 2016 at 16:33
  • The EVA suits worn are big and bulky - leading to a odd distribution of weight - throwing off the balance.
  • Aside from the bulk of the suit - when you're in a pressure-suit in a hard-vacuum environment, bending your arms/legs changes the volume of the suit somewhat. For a practical example, inflate a latex glove and try bending the fingers - they snap-back into position from
    air-pressure - the moonwalkers are dealing with the same thing.
  • Low gravity is hard to walk in when one is accustomed to
    Earth-gravity. Push too hard off the surface and you'll accidentally 'jump' and possibly tumble off of your feet.
  • The lunar surface is covered in very fine dust (known as Regolith)
    from billions of years of meteor hits and solar radiation. It tends
    to be 'slippery' sorta like trying to run/walk on beach-sand. It's
    hard to get good footing.

How to fix this? Newer materials and tech could lighten a suit somewhat. There's also research into suits that don't use air-pressure, but instead strap-around the body like a compression-garment to counter the vacuum. (There's air for breathing of course)

Moving in low-gravity is something we don't have a practical fix for. Practice in actual low-grav is about the only way to do it, and it's hard to get to the moon to practice.

As far as the lunar surface goes, we're thinking of paving the place. (No really: http://arc.aiaa.org/doi/abs/10.2514/6.2005-2510 )


The joints. Bending your elbows, knees, finger joints -- anything -- required you to basically compress a balloon.


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