HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - NASA's 17th annual Great Moonbuggy Race is set for April 9-10 at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. Nearly 100 student teams from high schools, colleges and universities around the world will propel wheeled rovers of their own design around a simulated lunar landscape.
University of Alabama Huntsville, Alabama A&M, Bob Jones H.S., Arab H.S., East Limestone H.S., Huntsville Center for Technology, and Madison County Career Tech Center. Also, this year there are more than 30 international teams from India, Germany and Canada.
Madison County Career Tech students and their Precision Machining instructor, Jeff Breece, will participate in this event.
The challenge: design, build and test a sturdy, collapsible, lightweight moonbuggy that addresses engineering obstacles similar to hurdles overcome by the original Apollo-era lunar rover development team at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville in the late 1960s.
Their buggies are based on the design of those classic rovers, which American astronauts drove across the moon's surface during the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions in the early 1970s.
Teams build their vehicles from the ground up, typically using bicycle or light motorcycle tires, aluminum or composite-metal struts and parts, and the most sophisticated -- or just plain dependable -- drive trains, gears, suspension, steering and braking systems they can find or devise.
That's a key goal of the Great Moonbuggy Race: to inspire students to think like professional engineers, solving the kinds of problems NASA workers face every day as they seek to continue the nation's exploration of space, benefit life on Earth and gain new understanding of our place in the cosmos.
Each moonbuggy must be human powered and piloted by two students, one female and one male. There's no official weight limit, but just as pairs of Apollo moonwalkers had to unload and prepare their lunar rover for travel, race drivers must be able to assemble their collapsed vehicle, then pick it up -- with no help from other teammates -- and carry it some 20 feet to the start of the race course.
The twisting, half-mile course includes sand and gravel pits, simulated lunar craters, humps and other obstacles. Top prizes are awarded to the three teams in the high school division and three in the college division that post the fastest buggy assembly and race times.
The Great Moonbuggy Race is organized annually by the Marshall Space Flight Center, and has been hosted by the U.S. Space and Rocket Center since 1996.