Space Racers Wanted: NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race
|Teodoro Aguilar Mora Vocational High School Team II of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, won first place in the high school division of the 18th annual NASA Great Moonbuggy Race, held April 1-2, 2011, at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. Courtesy of NASA/MSFC|
NASA is challenging student inventers and aspiring space racers to gear up for the 19th annual NASA Great Moonbuggy Race. Registration is now open for the engineering design contest, set to culminate in two days of racing April 13-14, 2012, in Huntsville, AL.
Participating high schools, colleges and universities may register up to two teams and two vehicles. International registration for the 2012 race closes January 9. Registration for U.S. teams closes February 10. For complete rules and to register, visit: http://moonbuggy.msfc.nasa.gov
The race is organized each year by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and held at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, both in Huntsville. Since 1994, NASA has challenged student teams to build and race human-powered rovers of their own design. These fast, lightweight “moonbuggies” address many of the same engineering challenges overcome by Apollo-era lunar rover developers at the Marshall Center in the late 1960s.
The original rover first was driven on the moon’s surface by Apollo 15 astronauts David Scott and James Irwin on July 31, 1971. Two more rovers followed during the Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 missions in 1972, expanding astronauts’ reach on the lunar surface and permitting greater focus on scientific exploration.
As they prepare for the NASA Great Moonbuggy Race, student teams carry on that tradition of engineering ingenuity, competing to post the fastest vehicle assembly and race times in their divisions, while incurring the fewest penalties. The challenging course, built each spring on the outdoor museum grounds of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, doesn’t make that easy. A looping, curving half-mile of gravel embankments, sand pits and obstacles designed to mimic lunar craters and ancient, fossilized lava flows, the course gives riders as realistic a moon-traversing experience as possible — minus the airlessness and weightlessness.
Prizes are awarded to the three teams in each division that finish with the fastest final times. NASA and industry sponsors present additional awards for engineering ingenuity, team spirit and overcoming unique challenges — such as the race weekend’s most memorable crash.
Teams from Puerto Rico scored the top trophies in 2011. Teodoro Aguilar Mora Vocational High School of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, won first place in the high school division with a best time of 3 minutes 18 seconds — just one second over the current course record. The University of Puerto Rico in Humacao, the only school to enter a moonbuggy every year since the race’s start in 1994, posted a best time of 3 minutes 41 seconds to win the college division for a second straight year.
Participation in the race has increased annually from just eight college teams in 1994 — the high school division was added two years later — to more than 70 high school and college teams from all over the world in 2011.
Nearly 20,000 people watched live and archived coverage of the spring 2011 race on UStream, an interactive, real-time webcasting platform. For archived footage of the competition, visit: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc
For images and additional information about past races, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/moonmars/moonbuggy.html