Keeping the wheels turning: 20th annual NASA great moonbuggy race

Nov 08, 2012 by Ann Marie Trotta And Angela Storey
The team from the University of Alabama in Huntsville finish the 19th annual NASA Great Moonbuggy Race with a completion time of 4 minutes and 3 seconds, earning first place in the college division of the race. Credit: MSFC/Emmett Given

Registration is now open for the 20th annual NASA Great Moonbuggy Race, which challenges high school, college and university students around the world to build and race fast, lightweight "moonbuggies" of their own design.

The students' work will culminate in two days of competitive racing April 26-27, 2013, at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. NASA created the event two decades ago to complement classroom learning, provide young thinkers and builders with real-world engineering experience and inspire them to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics—the STEM fields.

"It's our goal to keep the wheels turning," said Tammy Rowan, manager of the Academic Affairs Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, which organizes the race each year. "The ingenuity and enthusiasm we see among racers begins in the classroom. That first spark of interest—whether it's in basic chemistry or astronomy or the history of spaceflight—starts the wheels turning. The Great Moonbuggy Race helps sustain that momentum, turning interest into passion, and dreams into a lifelong pursuit of new answers and ."

International registration for the 2013 race closes Jan. 7. Registration for U.S. teams closes Feb. 4. Participating high schools, colleges and universities each may register up to two teams and two vehicles. For complete rules and to register, visit: moonbuggy.msfc.nasa.gov

When Marshall created the race as a regional college challenge during the 1993-1994 school year, only eight teams participated. The high school division was added in 1996, and registration has swelled ever since.

The team from Petra Mercado High School in Humacao, Puerto Rico, race to first place in the high school division of the 19th annual NASA Great Moonbuggy Race. Credit: MSFC/Fred Deaton

Racers compete to post the fastest vehicle assembly and race times in their divisions, while incurring the fewest penalties. Prizes are awarded to the three teams in each division that finish with the lowest final times. NASA and industry sponsors present additional awards for engineering ingenuity, team spirit, best debut by a rookie team and more.

The course, built each spring on the outdoor grounds of the Space and Rocket Center, comprises a winding half-mile of gravel embankments, sand pits and obstacles that mimic the harsh surface of the moon. The race's creators drew inspiration from conditions faced by the Apollo-era Lunar Roving Vehicles. Three rovers built at Marshall in the late 1960s were used on the moon during the Apollo 15, Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 missions in 1971 and 1972.

Today, the students' moonbuggies address many of the same design challenges NASA and industry engineers overcame to deliver those historic rovers. The vehicles dramatically expanded astronauts' reach across the lunar surface and enabled them to conduct much more scientific research during their brief stays on the moon.

In the most recent , held in April 2012, more than 70 teams tackled the course. Petra Mercado High School in Humacao, Puerto Rico was first place in the high school division. The University of Alabama in Huntsville won first place in the college division. Petra Mercado, in only its second year in the competition, earned a completion time of 3 minutes and 20 seconds. The winning University of Alabama in Huntsville team finished in 4 minutes and 3 seconds.

To date, more than 5,000 students from around the world have participated in the races. Past winning teams have hailed from Alabama, Arizona, California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming—and from Canada and Germany. International racers have come from as far away as India, Italy, Romania, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.

Racers from Erie High School in Erie, Kan., have held the record for the best course-completion time since 2008. Their best overall time of 3 minutes and 17 seconds earned the first-place trophy in the division that year.

More than 350,000 people watched live and archived coverage of the spring 2012 on NASA TV and on UStream. For archived footage of the competition, visit: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc .

Explore further: Cassini sees sunny seas on Titan

More information: For images and additional information about past races, visit: www.nasa.gov/moonbuggy.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The winners: NASA's 19th annual Great Moonbuggy Race

Apr 16, 2012

America's space agency today crowned its vehicular engineering victors at the close of the 19th annual NASA Great Moonbuggy Race at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. The team from Petra Mercado ...

The great moonbuggy race

Feb 24, 2011

Forty years after the first lunar rover rolled across the moon's surface, 84 teams of enterprising future engineers will demonstrate the same ingenuity and can-do spirit at the 18th annual NASA Great Moonbuggy ...

NASA looking for fastest moon wheels

Jan 15, 2008

The U.S. space agency has set April 4-5 as the dates for its 15th annual Great Moonbuggy Race for high school and college teams.

NASA plans 'moonbuggy' design competition

Dec 16, 2006

NASA officials in Alabama are calling on the next generation of space explorers to design and race their lunar rovers in NASA's 14th "Great Moonbuggy Race."

Recommended for you

Cassini sees sunny seas on Titan

20 hours ago

(Phys.org) —As it soared past Saturn's large moon Titan recently, NASA's Cassini spacecraft caught a glimpse of bright sunlight reflecting off hydrocarbon seas.

Is space tourism safe or do civilians risk health effects?

23 hours ago

Several companies are developing spacecraft designed to take ordinary citizens, not astronauts, on short trips into space. "Space tourism" and short periods of weightlessness appear to be safe for most individuals ...

An unmanned rocket exploded. So what?

Oct 30, 2014

Sputnik was launched more than 50 years ago. Since then we have seen missions launched to Mercury, Mars and to all the planets within the solar system. We have sent a dozen men to the moon and many more to ...

NASA image: Sunrise from the International Space Station

Oct 30, 2014

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman posted this image of a sunrise, captured from the International Space Station, to social media on Oct. 29, 2014. Wiseman wrote, "Not every day is easy. Yesterday was a tough one. ...

Copernicus operations secured until 2021

Oct 30, 2014

In a landmark agreement for Europe's Copernicus programme, the European Commission and ESA have signed an Agreement of over €3 billion to manage and implement the Copernicus 'space component' between 2014 ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.