It was Puerto Rico's day at the 20th NASA Great Moonbuggy Race. Teams from that country won first place in both the high school and college division races. More than 90 teams competed in the race, in which lightweight human-powered buggies race over a simulated lunar surface built at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The winning times for this grueling three-quarter mile course were 3:24 for the high school division and 3:32 for the college division.
First held in 1994, the NASA Great Moonbuggy Race pits the ingenuity of high school and college teams against a race course built to simulate the cratered, boulder-strewn surface of the Moon. The race was introduced to give students experience in overcoming engineering challenges in a context of a competition. The event is open to international teams, with Canada, Germany, India, Mexico, and Russia being represented in this year's competition.
This isn't just a race, however, as a quick look at the rules will make clear.
- Vehicles must be constructed by the entering team
- Vehicles must be human-powered
- Vehicles must collapse to fit within a box measuring four feet (1.2 meters) on a side
- Each team of drivers must include both a man and a woman
- The driving team must be able to pick up the vehicle in the 4-foot box and carry it 20 feet (6 meters) without touching the ground
- Each vehicle must be equipped with a simulated high gain antenna, fenders, safety restraints, a flag and other simulated (or functional) equipment
Scoring for the race is based on the shortest total time for assembling the moonbuggies and traversing the terrain course. The assembly time is recorded separately from the course time. Each team is permitted two runs of the terrain course, and the shortest course time will be added to the assembly time for the final total event time.
This year's top three finishing teams in each division are:
- High School Division
- First – Team 1, Teodoro Aguilar Mora Vocational High School, Yabucoa, Puerto Rico
- College Division
- First – University of Puerto Rico, Humacao, Puerto Rico
The Neil Armstrong Best Design Award, given to the teams which best solved engineering problems associated with lunar travel, was presented to the Academy of Arts, Careers, and Technology in Reno, NV, and Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL.
Both first-place winners were presented with trophies depicting NASA's original lunar rover. SAIC, one of the event's corporate sponsors, provided every participating moonbuggy team with a commemorative plaque. In addition, Lockheed Martin gave the first-place winners cash awards of US$3,000 each.
It looks like a good time was had by all!