Puerto Rico Dominates NASA’s 20th Annual Moonbuggy Race
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
High school and college students from Puerto Rico took the top places in NASA’s 20th annual Great Moonbuggy Race over the weekend at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The space agency conducted its two-decade-old race this past weekend, bringing in 89 teams from 23 states and six countries. NASA said about 600 students, including drivers, engineers and mechanics, were involved in the big event.
The Great Moonbuggy Race puts students in competition to try to build the best human-powered moonbuggy capable of surviving a treacherous race track. The track simulates conditions that would be found on the lunar surface, including gravel embankments and sand pits.
For the second year in a row, Puerto Rico took home first place in the high school division, while college students from the tiny island country were also able to claim a trophy this year. Students from Aguilar Mora Vocational High School in Yabucoa finished the half-mile course in three minutes and 24 seconds while the racers from the University of Puerto Rico crossed the finish line in three minutes, 32 seconds.
International Space Education Institute/Moscow Aviation University — also known as “Team Russia” — came in second place in the college division, followed by Middle Tennessee State University of Murfreesboro. Jupiter High School Team 1 of Jupiter, Florida took second place in the high school division, and its companion “team 2″ from the same school took third.
On Friday, the majority of the teams during the preliminary rounds were unable to finish the race without having to drag their moonbuggy across the finish line because the brutal course kept breaking chains, bending tires and destroying chassis. Students were then given the evening following Friday’s trial run to make adjustments to their moonbuggies,
The winning teams were presented trophies depicting NASA’s original lunar rover, and were given a $3,000 cash reward sponsored by Lockheed Martin Corporation. Individuals on the winning teams also received commemorative medals and other prizes.
NASA also gave out several other awards, including the Rookie Award, for the fastest course completion by a new race team; the Crash and Burn Award, for the team that endured the most spectacular vehicle breakdown; the Frank Joe Sexton Memorial Pit Crew Award, for ingenuity and persistence in overcoming problems during the race; and the Neil Armstrong Best Design Award, for those who built a moonbuggy that solves engineering problems associated with lunar travel.