Feature

Huntsville Center for Technology and Pittsburg State University Rise to the Challenge in Great Moonbuggy Race
04.10.06
It's not often one can soar with their feet on the ground, but that is exactly what students from the Huntsville Center for Technology High School from Huntsville, Ala., and Pittsburg State University from Pittsburg, Kan., are doing after winning their respective divisions in NASA's 13th annual Great Moonbuggy Race in Huntsville.

"This is a great reward," said Jacob Lehman, Pittsburg State's team captain. "It's been a tough job, but worth every minute we put into this project. For us, the race was the reward. We just wanted to see if we could do it and if it would run. Coming in first is a fantastic bonus!"

Moonbuggy team from Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kan. Image at right: The moonbuggy team from Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kan., powers through the rocket park at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., to finish first in the college division at NASA's 13th annual Great Moonbuggy Race. Credit: NASA/MSFC

The two winning teams were among 33 that raced their original moonbuggy designs across a half-mile simulated lunar surface at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville April 7-8.

The race is inspired by the original lunar rover engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville whose creation traveled across the moon during the last three Apollo missions in the early 1970s. The engineers had to design and build a compact, light, flexible and durable vehicle to carry astronauts on the lunar surface.

Students faced some of the same challenges while preparing to race their vehicles. The hands-on experience may inspire them to pursue careers in math, science and engineering and could lead them to be participants in NASA's Vision for Space Exploration of returning to the moon, reaching Mars and destinations beyond.

Moonbuggy team from the Huntsville Center for Technology in Huntsville, Ala. Image at right: The team from the Huntsville Center for Technology of Huntsville, Ala., takes a corner at high speed and heads for victory in the high school division of NASA's 13th annual Great Moonbuggy Race. Credit: NASA/MSFC

The Huntsville Center for Technology School finished ahead of 17 other teams Friday during the high school division races with a time of 4 minutes, 6 seconds. Erie High School of Erie, Kan., finished in second, and Pana Senior High School from Pana, Ill., came in third.

In the college division races Saturday, the team from Pittsburg State University beat out 15 other colleges and universities from across the country and Puerto Rico with a time of 3 minutes, 49 seconds. The University of Evansville team from Evansville, Ind., finished second in the collegiate division, followed by the teams from the University of Tennessee from Knoxville, and the University of Puerto Rico from Humacao, which tied for third.

"For all the teams that competed, the reward is in the journey that got them here," said Jim Ellis, manager of the Academic Affairs Office at the Marshall Center. "They learned about designing, engineering and construction -- things that could make them the next explorers of our universe."

"We applaud the innovation and determination to succeed that characterized every entry in this year's Moonbuggy race," said Art Stephenson, vice president, space exploration systems for race sponsor Northrop Grumman Corp. "We hope that our commitment to sponsor the competition for the next several years will inspire many more students to enter the race and experience the immense personal and educational rewards it has to offer."

The first-place teams in both divisions were awarded trophies depicting the original lunar rover vehicle. The Huntsville Center for Technology team members also won a free weekend at Space Camp, while the Pittsburg State University team won a free trip to a space shuttle launch at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., and a cash award from race sponsor Northrop Grumman Corp. of Los Angeles, Calif. The second- and third-place teams in both divisions were presented plaques honoring their achievement, and members of all six winning teams received medallions and duffel bags from United Space Alliance.

The award for "Best Engineering Design" in the college division went to the team from Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, who also won for the "Most Unique Design." Youngstown State University from Youngstown, Ohio earned the "Pits Crew" award for ingenuity and persistence in overcoming hardware problems during the race. The "Most Improved" award went to the University of Tennessee team and the "Safety System" award went to Tennessee Technological University from Cookeville.

Pana Senior High School was awarded "Most Unique Buggy" in the high school division. The award for "Best Design" went to the Huntsville Center for Technology. A special "Pits Crew Award" for overcoming problems during the race was won by Carlisle County High School in Bardwell, Ky. The "Most Improved" award went to returning race competitors from Erie High School.

The first Great Moonbuggy Race was run in 1994 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Apollo lunar landing. Eight college teams participated that first year. In 1996, the race was expanded to include high school teams.

Many volunteers from both the Marshall Space Flight Center and the space industry ensured the success of the event. The Northrop Grumman Corp. sponsored this year's Great Moonbuggy Race. Other contributors included the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA); ATK Thiokol; CBS affiliate WHNT Channel 19 of Huntsville; Jacobs/Sverdrup; Morgan Research Corp.; Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC); the Tennessee Valley Chapter of the System Safety Society Inc.; and the United Space Alliance, LLC.

For more photos of the teams and complete results, visit the Marshall Newsroom at:
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/news/

For more event details, race rules, and information on the course, visit:
http://moonbuggy.msfc.nasa.gov/.


Contact:
Angela Storey, Marshall Space Flight Center
256.544.0034

Brooks McKinney, Northrop Grumman
310.331.6610