NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge

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Students traverse a simulated crater in a moonbuggy they designed and built themselves.

The NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge, prior to 2014 referred to as the Great Moonbuggy Race, is an annual competition for high school and college students to design, build, and race human-powered, collapsible vehicles over simulated lunar terrain. NASA sponsors the competition, first held in 1994, and, since 1996, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center hosts.[1][2]

Students created vehicles dubbed "moonbuggies" to face challenges similar to those engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center addressed in preparation for Apollo 15. On that mission, on July 31, 1971, the first Lunar Roving Vehicle extended the range of astronauts on the moon to allow for further exploration than was otherwise possible. Two other rovers were sent to the moon on subsequent missions.[1]

With the 2014 changes in the contest, the motivation changed to mimicking design challenges faced by engineers designing rovers for future exploration missions to a variety of celestial bodies.[2]

The first two events were held at the original track used for testing lunar rover candidates. Here, the team from Puerto Rico navigates boulders.

The first race, in 1994, was held on July 16, the 25th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch. It featured six college teams who competed on the same course as had been used to test the lunar rovers previously. The University of New Hampshire finished first, in 18 minutes 55 seconds for the 1.4-mile (2.3 km) course with twelve obstacles. The prize was a trip for six team members to see a Space Shuttle launch. Other teams from the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao, Texas A & M University, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Georgia Institute of Technology and Indiana University/Purdue University at Indianapolis participated.[3]

Subsequent races have been held in April. In 1996, the competition was moved to a .75-mile (1.21 km) course at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center; high school teams also began competing.

Rules[edit]

The rules change year by year, but are largely summarized thus:[4][5]

  • A team of at most six people designs, builds, and races the same vehicle.[5]
  • Two of the six must ride and propel the vehicle through the course.[6]
  • Riders must be one male and one female.[6]
  • The moonbuggy (pre-2014) must fit into a 4-foot (1.2 m) cube and be no more than 4 ft wide.[7] Beginning in 2014, the rover constraint was a 5-foot (1.5 m) cube.
  • The vehicle needs to carry a simulated high-gain antenna, camera, and other instrumentation which must consume at least 1 cubic foot (28 l).[5][7]
  • Various other dimensional and safety criteria apply.
  • Time penalties are assessed for touching the ground, avoiding obstacles, and other rule violations.[5][6]

Course[edit]

Since 1996, the course winds through the rocket park at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. This map shows the 2012 course.

The course is designed to test rovers for stability over varying simulated lunar or extraterrestrial terrain—bumpy, sloped, and rocky—including some tight turns.[7] The first course was the actual track used by Mobility Test Articles, auditioning versions of Lunar Roving Vehicles that were used on the moon. For the third race the course was moved a few miles, to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. There, the track has taken varying paths through the rocket park and around the permanent lunar crater feature at the museum. Each year, the obstacles change slightly.[1]

An obstacle for the 2013 contest awaits final preparations. Tires form small craters and gravel substitutes for moon surface material.

The obstacles are constructed of discarded tires, plywood, some 20 tons of gravel and five tons of sand, all to simulate lunar craters, basins, and rilles.[7] The contest is challenging: in 2009, 29 of 68 teams competing did not complete the race.[8] Sometimes the placement of the obstacle is an issue, with some teams hitting obstacles too fast after a downhill stint.[9]

Before students tackle the race course, their vehicles must pass inspection. At the team's start time, the two riding students must carry the buggy, collapsed to fit in a 5-foot (1.5 m) cube (pre-2014 a 4-foot (1.2 m) cube), for 20 feet (6.1 m), then expand the rover and ride it across the obstacles and along the track, avoiding cones marking the edges of the course, bales of hay, and other obstructions, while successfully navigating the modest hills of the terrain and obstacles. After the race, another inspection assesses the condition of the vehicle, with time penalties if parts are missing.[4]

Contestants[edit]

Contestants are high school and university students largely from the United States, including Puerto Rico. Teams have also come from Canada, Mexico, India, Germany, and Romania to participate.[7][10]

Awards[edit]

Numerous awards are offered each year, some with significant prizes. First place college winners have received trips to Shuttle launches and cash prizes, while others have received weekends at Space Camp. In 2009, there were 11 categories for special recognition with 19 recipients thereof. Consistent from the beginning have been awards for fastest time and for best design. Other awards acknowledge simplicity of design, safety, tenacity, team spirit, improvement over previous years' entries, and exceptional new entries.[11]

Winners[edit]

Students from Graff Career Center, Springfield, Missouri. navigate the 360° turn around the permanent crater feature at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in 1999.
The Cornell #2 team competes in the 2002 race.
North Dakota State University students enter an obstacle on the course in 2003.
Year High School College Remarks
1994 none University of New Hampshireᵗ
University of Puerto Rico at Humacao
Original test track, 1.4 miles, rain[3]
1995 none Georgia Institute of Technologyᵗ
University of Alabama in Huntsvilleᵈ
Original test track[12]
1996 Bob Jones High Schoolᵗᵈ University of Alabama in Huntsvilleᵗ
Arizona State University
First at USSRC, ¾ mile track[13]
1997 Monterey High School (Louisiana)ᵗᵈ University of California at Santa Barbaraᵗᵈ ½ mile track[14][15]
1998 Monterey High Schoolᵗ
Autauga County Vocational Center
College of New Jersey
Arizona State Universityᵈ
Rain[16][17]
1999 Graff Career Centerᵗᵈ Pittsburg State University team 4ᵗ
College of New Jerseyᵈ
[18]
2000 Pittsburg High School, Kansasᵗ
Orleans Parish Area Schools
College of New Jerseyᵗ
South Dakota State University
First two-day contest[19][20]
2001 Graff Career Centerᵗ
Lafayette County High School (Missouri) team 1ᵈ
Pittsburg State University team 2ᵗ
University of New Hampshire
[21]
2002 Lafayette County High School in Higginsville, Mo.ᵗ
New Orleans Area Schools team 2ᵈ
Cornell Universityᵗ
College of New Jerseyᵈ
[22]
2003 Lafayette County (Mo.) C-1 High School Team No. 2ᵗ North Dakota State University [23]
2004 New Orleans Area High Schools North Dakota State Universityᵗ [24]
2005 Madison County Career Academy team 1ᵗ Utah State University [25][26]
2006 Huntsville Center for Technology Pittsburg State Universityᵗ [27]
2007 Huntsville Center for Technologyᵗ Rochester Institute of Technologyᵗ [28]
2008 Erie High School (Kansas) Team 2ᵗ
Erie High School Team 1ᵈ
University of Evansvilleᵗ
Pittsburg State Universityᵈ
[29][30][31]
2009 tie Erie High School (Kansas)ᵗ
tie Huntsville Center for Technology Team 2ᵗ
Tudor Vianu National High School of Computer Science
Rochester Institute of Technology
Tennessee Technological University
0.7 miles (1.1 km) course[8][10][11][32][33]
2010 International Space Education Institute of Leipzig
Teodoro Aguilar Mora Vocational High School Team 2ᵈ
The University of Puerto Rico at Humacaoᵗ
University of Alabama in Huntsvilleᵈ
[9][34]
2011 Teodoro Aguilar Mora Vocational High School Team 2ᵗ University of Puerto Rico in Humacaoᵗ UPRH is the only contestant to enter in every race thus far.[35]
2012 Petra Mercado High School
Colegio Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro-Humacao
University of Alabama in Huntsvilleᵗ
International Space Education Institute Team Russia in Moscowᵈ
[36]
2013 Teodoro Aguilar Mora Vocational High Schoolᵗ
Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology
University of Puerto Rico at Humacaoᵗ
Southern Illinois University
[37]
2014 Academy of Arts, Careers and Technologyᵗᵈ University of Puerto Rico at Humacao Team 2ᵗ
Middle Tennessee State University – Team 2ᵈ
First "Human Exploration Rover Challenge," harder course, non-pneumatic wheels[38][39]

ᵗFirst place for time
ᵈBest design award

2013 Race[edit]

The 2013 Great Moonbuggy Race took place April 25–27. NASA broadcast the event on NASA TV. There was some concern that the race might be called off due to sequestration, but NASA Associate Administrator for Education, Leland D. Melvin specifically exempted the event.[40][41]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Official NASA Great Moonbuggy Race Fact Sheet". NASA. p. 4. Retrieved April 5, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "About NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge". Archived from the original on April 11, 2014. Retrieved April 11, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Moon Buggy Race was Wheeling Task for Students". Marshall Star. July 20, 1994. 
  4. ^ a b "Moonbuggy Rules and Penalties". NASA. Archived from the original on 2013-02-15. Retrieved April 6, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Rover Challenge Rules". NASA. Archived from the original on 2014-04-11. Retrieved April 11, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c "NASA's Great Moonbuggy Race". Time.com. Time. 2010. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Greenemeier, Larry (April 3, 2009). "Slide Show: Students Gear Up for NASA's Annual Moon Buggy Race". Scientific American. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  8. ^ a b Skillings, Jonathan (April 6, 2009). "Photos: NASA's moonbuggy stakes". CNet. p. 19. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  9. ^ a b Marshall, Mike (April 11, 2010). "Moonbuggy challenge grows". al.com. Huntsville Times. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  10. ^ a b Cumbow, Victoria (April 3, 2009). "Moon buggy races today". al.com. Huntsville Times. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  11. ^ a b Storey, Angela (April 4, 2009). "NASA Names 16th Annual Great Moonbuggy Race Winners". NASA. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  12. ^ "Modern Moon Buggies Race Over Historic Terrain". Marshall Star. April 26, 1995. 
  13. ^ "Local Schools Win Great Moon Buggy Race". Marshall Star. April 24, 1996. 
  14. ^ Berg, Jerry (April 17, 1997). "Great Moon Buggy Race". NASA. Archived from the original on January 9, 2000. Retrieved April 6, 2013. 
  15. ^ Berg, Jerry (April 21, 1997). "Great Moon Buggy Race Winners". NASA. Archived from the original on January 9, 2000. Retrieved April 6, 2013. 
  16. ^ Berg, Jerry (April 18, 1998). "Monterey High School Celebrates Victory Following 5th Annual Great Moon Buggy Race". NASA. Archived from the original on November 21, 2000. Retrieved 2013-04-06. 
  17. ^ Berg, Jerry (April 20, 1998). "New Jersey and Louisiana Schools Celebrate Victory Following 5th Annual Great Moon Buggy Race". NASA. Archived from the original on September 2, 2000. Retrieved April 6, 2013. 
  18. ^ Berg, Jerry (April 17, 1999). "Kansas College and Missouri High School Are Winners In 6th Annual 'Great Moonbuggy Race'". NASA. Archived from the original on August 24, 2000. Retrieved 2013-04-06. 
  19. ^ Berg, Jerry (April 7, 2000). "Team From Pittsburg, Kan., Powers to Top of High School Division at NASA’s 7th Annual ‘Great Moonbuggy Race’". Archived from the original on August 17, 2000. Retrieved 2013-04-06. 
  20. ^ Berg, Jerry (April 8, 2000). "New Jersey School Powers to Top of College Division at NASA's 7th Annual 'Great Moonbuggy Race'". NASA. Archived from the original on August 17, 2000. Retrieved 2013-04-06. 
  21. ^ "Kansas team triumphs in college division of NASA's 8th Annual "Great Moonbuggy Race"". NASA. April 7, 2001. Archived from the original on 2007-05-22. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  22. ^ "New York team triumphs in college division of NASA’s 9th annual 'Great Moonbuggy Race'". NASA. April 13, 2002. Archived from the original on 2007-05-16. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  23. ^ "North Dakota triumphs in college division of NASA's 10th annual 'Great Moonbuggy Race'". April 12, 2003. Archived from the original on 2006-09-28. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  24. ^ Jensen, Martin (April 3, 2004). "North Dakota State Triumphs in College Division of NASA's 11th Annual 'Great Moonbuggy Race' Saturday". NASA. Archived from the original on 2006-09-28. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  25. ^ Jensen, Martin (April 8, 2005). "Hometown Team Wins High School Division in NASA's 12th Annual 'Great Moonbuggy Race' Friday". NASA. Archived from the original on 2006-10-12. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  26. ^ Jensen, Martin (April 9, 2005). "Utah State University Triumphs in College Division Of NASA's 12th Annual 'Great Moonbuggy Race' Saturday". NASA. Archived from the original on 2007-06-14. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  27. ^ "Photos: 'Moonbuggies' bounce to the finish line". CNet. April 10, 2006. p. 8. Retrieved 2013-04-06. 
  28. ^ Storey, Angela (April 13, 2007). "Huntsville Center for Technology Conquers Space-Age Terrain to Win the High School Division of NASA's Great Moonbuggy Race". NASA. Archived from the original on 2007-06-07. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  29. ^ "Students' moonbuggy takes prize". Topeka Capital-Journal (Pittsburg, Kansas). AP. April 12, 2006. Retrieved 2013-04-06. 
  30. ^ Storey, Angela (April 5, 2008). "University of Evansville, Ind., Students Rocket to First Place in College Division of NASA's Great Moonbuggy Race". NASA. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  31. ^ Storey, Angela (April 4, 2008). "Erie High Team From Erie, Kan., Overcomes Moonscape, All Competitors To Win High School Division Of NASA's Great Moonbuggy Race". NASA. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  32. ^ "Fastest times for the Great Moonbuggy race". Huntsville Times. al.com. April 5, 2009. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  33. ^ Gray, Kathy Lynn (April 5, 2009). "Moonbuggy race: Broken part eliminates OSU". Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  34. ^ Storey, Angela (April 10, 2010). "NASA Announces Winners of 17th Annual Great Moonbuggy Race". NASA. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  35. ^ "NASA Announces Winners of 18th Annual Great Moonbuggy Race: Puerto Rico teams take top awards in high school, college divisions". NASA. April 2, 2011. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  36. ^ "Winners of 19th Annual NASA Great Moonbuggy Race Announced". NASA. April 14, 2012. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  37. ^ "Puerto Rico Teams Take Top Spots at 20th NASA Great Moonbuggy Race". NASA. 2013-04-27. Retrieved 2013-04-28. 
  38. ^ Roop, Lee (April 11, 2014). "NASA's new rover challenge is tough, just like the rest of the agency's life today". Huntsville Times. Retrieved April 17, 2014. 
  39. ^ "2014 NASA Human Rover Exploration Challenge Results". Space Fellowship. April 13, 2014. Retrieved April 17, 2014. 
  40. ^ Melvin, Leland (March 26, 2013). "Letter from NASA AA for Education Leland Melvin to Education Coordinating Council on Waivers for Education and Public Outreach Activities". Spaceref.com. Spaceref. Retrieved 2013-04-08. 
  41. ^ Roop, Lee (March 26, 2013). "NASA Great Moonbuggy Race dodges sequestration cut and will go on in April". Huntsville Times. al.com. Retrieved 2013-04-08. 

External links[edit]