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Kansas, Indiana Students Clinch Victory in NASA's 15th Annual Great Moonbuggy Race
04.07.08
 
Student racers from the University of Evansville in Evansville, Ind., speed to victory in the college division of NASA's 15th annual Great Moonbuggy Race. Winning college moonbuggy racers from the University of Evansville. Image credit: NASA/MSFC
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Enterprising student engineers from Erie High School Team II in Erie, Kan., and the University of Evansville in Evansville, Ind., are over the moon this week. The Erie and Evansville teams won first place in the high school and college divisions, respectively, of NASA's 15th annual Great Moonbuggy Race, held April 4-5 at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Forty-six high school, college and university teams from around the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, India and Germany fielded lightweight moonbuggies of their own design, many of which have been ongoing class projects since the start of the fall 2007 school year.

The buggies are inspired by the original lunar rover used during the Apollo moon missions in the early 1970s. The race honors the legacy of ingenuity and creative problem-solving shown by the original rover designers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, which organizes the race each year.

Despite driving rain, 22 high school teams turned out to compete April 4. Erie Team II posted the fastest course completion time among high school racers -- just 3 minutes and 17 seconds -- edging out second- and third-place winners, both hometown teams from 2007 high school moonbuggy champion Huntsville Center for Technology.

The rain departed April 5, leaving a damp course and chilly conditions for 24 college and university teams. Evansville finished the course in 4 minutes and 25 seconds, edging out second-place finishers from Murray State University in Murray, Ky., and third-place racers representing Canada's Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario.

Student racers from Erie High School Team II in Erie, Kan., took first place in the high school division of NASA's 15th annual Great Moonbuggy Race. Victorious high school moonbuggy racers from Erie, Kan. Image credit: NASA/MSFC
Marshall Center engineer Mike Selby, timekeeper for the weekend races -- and a former moonbuggy racer himself during his years as an engineering student at the University of Alabama in Huntsville – said Erie High's 3:17 completion time is the fastest-ever for the current moonbuggy course. No small feat: The half-mile course simulates lunar ground conditions, complete with steep slopes, rocky outcroppings, sandy craters and sharp ridges like those dug by ancient lunar lava flows.

The winning teams received trophies, cash prizes and other awards. NASA and the event's corporate sponsors handed out a variety of additional honors, including awards for "Best Moonbuggy Design" and the college-level "Crash and Burn" award for the most spectacular vehicle breakdown of the day.

"Once again, we're amazed and inspired by the ingenuity and energy of our participating teams," said Tammy Rowan, manager of the Marshall Center's Academic Affairs Office, which organizes the moonbuggy race. "This race is a great example of how NASA's educational initiatives can inspire and motivate new generations to carry on the nation's journey of discovery, to the moon and onward into the solar system.

"We look forward to 2009 and the next edition of NASA's Great Moonbuggy Race," Rowan added. "We expect many of these teams back -- bringing them another step toward becoming the professional scientists, mathematicians, engineers and technologists of tomorrow."

A pair of intrepid student drivers from Puerto Rico High School in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, endure a fearsome, buggy-flipping crash early in the day during the high school division of NASA's 15th annual Great Moonbuggy Race. A pair of intrepid student drivers from Puerto Rico High School in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, overcome a buggy-flipping crash and earn the 2008 "Rookie Award." Image credit: NASA/MSFC
The 2008 race is sponsored by NASA's Space Operations Mission Directorate, along with Northrop Grumman Corp., The Boeing Company and Teledyne Brown Engineering, all of Huntsville. Additional contributors include the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics; ATK Launch Systems, Inc.; CBS-TV affiliate WHNT (Ch. 19); Jacobs Engineering Science Technical Service Group; Stanley Associates; Science Applications International Corp.; the Tennessee Valley chapter of the System Safety Society Inc.; the United Space Alliance, LLC; and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

Complete lists of winners and photos of the top racers can be found at:

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/news


Past winners, information about the course and NASA's official fact sheet about the race are available online at:

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/news/moonbuggy.html


For more information, visit NASA's official Great Moonbuggy Race Web presence:

http://moonbuggy.msfc.nasa.gov
 
 


Credit: Rick Smith
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center