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For Release: April 3, 1997
The same spirit of ingenuity that produced NASA's Lunar Roving Vehicle is back at work as college and high school students prepare for the 4th Annual Great Moon Buggy Race in Huntsville, Ala.
Students put their engineering skills to the test by designing, building and racing their versions of the "moon buggy" on a track simulating the lunar surface. Teams representing 15 colleges and high schools from across the country will compete beginning at 10 a.m. April 19 at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville.
Competitors will race in the shadow of a giant Saturn V, like the rocket that boosted NASA's Lunar Rover to the Moon, and a full-size Space Shuttle mock-up. The one-half mile racecourse is speckled with "lava ridges," "craters" and sandpits -- simulating the lunar surface -- as it winds through the Space Center's grounds.
This year's moon buggy race is sponsored by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville -- where the Lunar Roving Vehicle and the Saturn V were designed and developed. The moon buggy helped astronauts explore their landing sites on the Moon during the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions.
"The fascinating thing I see over and over is the students' interest in space," said Jim Dowdy, moon buggy competition coordinator at the Marshall Center. "They go for anything that's connected to the space program. The competition enhances awareness of human exploration and development of space."
Each two-member team will race their human-powered buggy, piloted by one male and one female student. After a safety inspection of each vehicle, the competition will begin when the two crew members carry their moon buggy a distance of 20 feet and place it at the starting line.
Once the signal comes that the event clock is ticking, the crew will unfold and assemble their moon buggy from a bin no larger than a 4-foot cube and race around the course. The event clock will stop when the vehicle and its crew cross the finish line.
Prizes will be awarded to the top three finishers. The top prize is a trip to Kennedy Space Center in Florida to watch a Space Shuttle launch. A prize also will be awarded to the buggy judged to be the "best" design from an original, creative concept and offering the best technical solution to navigating on a planetary surface.
Teams scheduled to compete in the race are from Arizona State University (Tempe, Ariz.); Auburn University (Auburn, Ala.); North Dakota State (Fargo, N.D.); Ozark Community College (Springfield, Mo.); Pittsburg State University (Pittsburg, Kan.); Trenton State College (Trenton, N.J.); University of Alabama in Huntsville (Huntsville, Ala.); University of Evansville (Evansville, Ind.); University of Florida (Gainesville, Fla.); University of Puerto Rico (Humacao, Puerto Rico); University of Vermont (Burlington, Vt.); and the University of Tennessee (Knoxville, Tenn.).
There are three entries in the high school division: Bob Jones High School (Huntsville, Ala.); Monterey High School (Monterey, La.); and Autauga County Vocational Center (Prattville, Ala.).
Sponsors of the event, other than Marshall, include the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. General admission to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center on the day of the event will include the moon buggy competition.
NOTE TO WEEKEND EDITORS: Marshall Public Affairs will issue a news release April 19 at the conclusion of the race to announce the winning teams. Please provide your department's appropriate fax number to the Office of Media Services at (205) 544-0034 to help Marshall disseminate the information in a timely manner.