Cameron University students claim top 10 finish in NASA’s 16th Annual Great Moonbuggy Race

A team of students from Cameron University took eighth place in the 16th Annual Great Moonbuggy Race, held at the Marshall Space and Flight Center in Huntsville, AL and sponsored by NASA. CU's Aggie team - the only team from the state of Oklahoma - was among 68 teams from 20 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, Germany, India and Romania.

Cameron students racing in their moonbuggy"Our team exhibited outstanding teamwork," says Dr. Hermann Gruenwald, faculty advisor. "These Cameron students worked diligently throughout the semester to design and construct a successful vehicle. It was rewarding to see them claim a place in the top 10 - Cameron's best finish ever."

The 2009 CU moonbuggy team consists of engineering design majors Aaron Cobb, Donald Price, Jason Redden, Tana Spaulding, all of Lawton; John Correll of Marlow; Miwa Fukuda of Maebashi City, Japan; Olta Kapinova of Vlore, Albania; and Haniff Woods of Bassetterre, St. Kitts & Nevis.

NASA's Great Moonbuggy Race is inspired by the original lunar rover designed by engineers at the Marshall Center. That team had the challenge to design and build a compact, light, flexible and durable vehicle that would carry astronauts on the moon's surface during the Apollo missions. Apollo 15 astronauts David Scott and Jim Irwin piloted the first rover across the moon's surface in July 1971. The moonbuggy continued to chart new lunar territory during the Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 missions.

To get to the race, teams must design their buggies, build them and test them - in much the same way that NASA engineers design space equipment. The students configure it to fit in a container no larger than 4 feet by 4 feet by 4 feet before assembly.

Two racers, one male and one female, must lift and carry the unassembled moonbuggy 20 feet without assistance and assemble it while being timed. Many teams use lightweight materials, bicycle gearing systems and bicycle wheels to pull together what they hope will be an award winner. Just like NASCAR, the teams have pit crews ready to repair buggies that suffer damage while trekking the course's rough terrain.

The race is a grueling endurance test over a half-mile course of twists, turns and inclines, as well as simulated lunar craters, rocks, lava ridges and soil. Like the moon's actual terrain, the course is tough and the two buggy drivers who power the vehicle must be in top athletic condition.

The event is sponsored by Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Jacobs ESTS Group, Teledyne Brown Engineering and Northrop Grumman Corporation.


Pictured above: CU students Tana Spaulding and Jason Redden maneuver the Cameron moonbuggy through the course. Photo courtesy of NASA.

April 8, 2009