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Mon, Dec 12, 2011

Ladies And Gentlemen ... Start Your Moonbuggies!

NASA Opens Registration for Annual Great Moonbuggy Race

NASA is challenging student inventors to gear up for the agency's 19th annual Great Moonbuggy Race. Registration is open for the engineering design and racing contest set to culminate in a two-day event in Huntsville, AL, on April 13-14, 2012. Participating high schools, colleges and universities may register up to two teams and two vehicles. Registration for U.S. teams closes February 10. International registration closes January 9.

The race is organized annually 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 Marshall in the late 1960s. Apollo 15 astronauts David Scott and James Irwin drove the first rover on the moon's surface on July 31, 1971. Two more rovers followed during the Apollo 16 and 17 missions in 1972, expanding astronauts' reach surface and permitting greater focus on scientific exploration.

As they prepare for the 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 rocket center's challenging, looping, curving half-mile course of gravel embankments, sand pits and obstacles mimics lunar craters and ancient, fossilized lava flows. The course gives racers a realistic moon-traversing experience -- minus the airlessness and weightlessness. Prizes are awarded to the three teams in each division 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 won the top trophies in 2011. Teodoro Aguilar Mora Vocational High School of Yabucoa won first place in the high school division with a best time of 3 minutes, 18 seconds -- just one second over the 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 the second straight year.

Participation in the race increased from just eight college teams in 1994 -- the high school division was added two years later -- to more than 70 high school and college national and international teams in 2011. (Image Courtesy NASA)


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