Happy Monday morning! I hope you were able to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather the weekend had to offer.

This past weekend NASA – Marshall Space Flight Center hosted the annual Human Exploration Rover Challenge at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. Formally known as the “Great Moon Buggy Race,” the annual event is an engineering competition where teams of high school and college students from around the world compete in the design and fabrication of a “lunar roving vehicle” and ultimately race over a simulated “moon terrain” course powered solely by blood, sweat and tears.

The competition began in 1994 with six college teams to commemorate the anniversary of the Apollo 15 lunar landing and has grown to almost 100 teams coming from as far away as Puerto Rico, India and Bangladesh. The first two competitions were held on one of the courses at the Marshall Space Flight Center used to test the original lunar rovers and then moved to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center where they have been hosted since 1996. I was a NASA photographer during those early days and now cover the event as a media source while getting to see many of my former NASA co-workers that are still involved.

Each year the course is redesigned to add new challenges for the six member teams including issues that may face future space rovers and travelers. Before each team races they have to pass a vehicle inspection which requires the two-member rover team, one male and one female, to assemble the rover which has been designed to meet many generic design criteria of the original rover.  Once the assembly is completed, the team is given the go-ahead to travel the seven-tenth of a mile course that is made up as described as “many miscellaneous extraterrestrial surface-like obstacles” including a lunar crater with a life-sized replica of the Luna Module. The teams are judged on their overall time and include assessed penalties when they are unable to maneuver over the obstacles or remove themselves from the vehicle to help move it over an obstacle or through the course.

For these future “space cadets” that experience the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat while jockeying the course, it really is the joy of competing and making new friends that appears to drive them the most. For all of their efforts an award ceremony is hosted in their honor and recognition is given to the first three winning teams in each division for both high school and college for having the shortest total time in assembling and traversing the course. From here you could say it is “on to the moon and beyond” for these dreamers that beam themselves home with some very incredible and fond memories. ENJOY!!!

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All the best to you!!!!
dK and Greyson