For only the second time, a team of mechanical engineering students from Rochester Institute of Technology will go to the moon in a buggy. Well, make that go to the moon-like surface of an obstacle course at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., for the 8th-annual Great Moon Buggy Race, this Saturday, April 7.
Seasoned veterans this time, RIT’s 10-member team built from the ground up a totally new moon buggy, completely overhauling last year’s design to create a sleek, efficient, foot-powered vehicle featuring side-by-side seating for two drivers (one male, one female) and a lower center of gravity than last year’s buggy.
Center of gravity is a characteristic not taken lightly by student designers, since the half-mile "moonscape" course features such bumps in the road as craters, "lava" ridges, "lunar" soil and "moon" rocks. So the possibility of overturning is a real concern (especially since flipping over tends to hinder fast finishes).
In addition to course-completion time, teams are judged on assembly time and design. Each of the more than two dozen participating teams from colleges and universities in the United States and Puerto Rico takes two runs on the simulated lunar-terrain course.
Great Moon Buggy Race sponsors include NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.