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Rochester Institute of Technology in motion

Rochester Institute of Technology, front view

Huntsville Center for Technology team 2

Erie High School team 2

Erie High School, three-wheeler

Ohio State University

Southern University

Tudor Vianu National High School of Computer Science

German Space Education Institute

Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology

McMaster University

University of Wyoming

Pittsburg State University, off-course

Pittsburg State University goes down

Lima Senior High School, upright

Lima Senior High School, upside-down

Fairhope High School

Carlisle County High School

Every year, NASA hosts an "offworld racing" event to challenge college and high school students to think like lunar mission engineers. The 16th Great Moonbuggy Race took place April 3 and 4 at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

This year's winner in the college division, seen here moving at speed, was Rochester Institute of Technology, of Rochester, N.Y. The overall field included 68 teams from 20 states, plus Puerto Rico, and four countries outside the U.S.

Caption by / Photo by NASA/MSFC
The winners in the quest to design, build, and race lightweight, human-powered buggies were determined by a combination of vehicle assembly time, race time, and number of on-course penalties. The RIT team, seen here from the front, finished the approximately half-mile course in 3 minutes, 30 seconds. Besides bragging rights, it took home a $5,700 cash prize.
Caption by / Photo by NASA/MSFC
Two teams tied for top honors in the high school division--Team 2 from the Huntsville (Alabama) Center for Technology and Erie High School Team 2 from Erie, Kan., both of which were 5 seconds faster than the RIT team. Pictured on this page is the Huntsville team 2 buggy.
Caption by / Photo by NASA/MSFC
This is the other first-place finisher, Erie High School team 2. The prize for the first-place high school teams was $500 plus a week at the nearby Space Camp.
Caption by / Photo by NASA/MSFC
Erie High also entered a three-wheeled vehicle--which turned out to be the only three-wheeler to cross the finish line. Apparently most such buggies can't generate enough power to get to the finish in a timely enough manner. Overall, of the 68 teams in this year's race, 29 never completed the race for one reason or another.
Caption by / Photo by NASA/MSFC
Race organizers couldn't really adjust Earth's gravitational pull to simulate that aspect of being on the moon, but otherwise they did their best to create some lunar-like hazards, including gravel pits, twisting turns, and other obstacles. Here, the Ohio State University team crosses a crater as it heads for a turn around a replica of the Apollo program's Lunar Excursion Module.
Caption by / Photo by NASA/MSFC
A team from Southern University in Louisiana careens down the course--but who's steering?
Caption by / Photo by NASA/MSFC
Team 2 from Tudor Vianu National High School of Computer Science in Bucharest, Romania, was a winner for best moonbuggy design--that is, for solving engineering problems associated with travel on the moon. (Tennessee Technological University also won in that category.) The Romanian team won as well for best team spirit.
Caption by / Photo by NASA/MSFC
Gravel hazards don't deter this team from the German Space Education Institute. The Leipzig, Germany, entry turned in the best performance by an international team, and also shared the most-improved award with the Rochester Institute of Technology, according to NASA.
Caption by / Photo by NASA/MSFC
This team is from the Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology in India. It was engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, where the race took place, who designed the actual lunar rover that was first used on the Apollo 15 mission in July 1971, and then again on the Apollo 16 and 17 missions.
Caption by / Photo by NASA/MSFC
Some hazards were trickier than others to negotiate. This bottomed-out vehicle is from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. NASA says that the buggies typically are constructed of aluminum or composite-metal struts, bicycle or light motorcycle tires, and scrounged or created components including drive trains, suspension, and brakes.
Caption by / Photo by NASA/MSFC
The University of Wyoming team had the dubious distinction of capturing the race's "crash and burn" award for the most spectacular vehicle breakdown. Pictures of the breakdown, alas, were not made available.
Caption by / Photo by NASA/MSFC
But we do have visual evidence of what happened with this team, from Pittsburg State University in Kansas, when it veered off-course...
Caption by / Photo by NASA/MSFC
The result was a sort of two-wheeled, Joie Chitwood-style stunt turn. Here's hoping the hand on the ground prevented a full wipe-out.
Caption by / Photo by NASA/MSFC
By contrast, the landing for this team from Lima (Ohio) Senior High School...
Caption by / Photo by NASA/MSFC
...was a lot less graceful. NASA did not say whether any of the Great Moonbuggy Race participants were injured during the contest.
Caption by / Photo by NASA/MSFC
The shoes taped onto the pedals are reminiscent of the final race scene in the great bicycling movie, "Breaking Away." This vehicle is from Fairhope (Alabama) High School.

The first Great Moonbuggy Race took place in 1994, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. It was open only to college entries, and eight teams participated. Two years later, high school teams were allowed to enter.

Caption by / Photo by NASA/MSFC
Exultation? Fatigue? A warning to clear the track? This expressive team is from Carlisle County High School in Kentucky.
Caption by / Photo by NASA/MSFC
Updated:
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