New Space and Tech

Puerto Rico Teams Take Top Spots at 20th NASA Great Moonbuggy Race

By Keith Cowing
April 29, 2013
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Puerto Rico Teams Take Top Spots at 20th NASA Great Moonbuggy Race
Team from Teodoro Aguilar Mora Vocational High School

NASA today declared the winners of the 20th NASA Great Moonbuggy Race at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. Team 1 from Teodoro Aguilar Mora Vocational High School of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, won first place in the high school division; racers from the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao claimed the college-division trophy.
The winning teams outraced more than 89 teams from 23 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, India, Germany, Mexico and Russia. Approximately 600 student drivers, engineers and mechanics — plus their team advisors and cheering sections — gathered April 26-27 for the 20th “space race.”

Organized by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, the race challenges students to design, build and race lightweight, human-powered buggies. Traversing the grueling half-mile course, which simulates the cratered lunar surface, race teams face many of the same engineering challenges dealt with by Apollo-era lunar rover developers at the Marshall Center in the late 1960s. The winning teams post the fastest vehicle assembly and race times in their divisions, with the fewest on-course penalties.

The team from Teodoro Aguilar Mora Vocational High School, in its third year in the competition, finished the half-mile course in 3 minutes, 24 seconds. The University of Puerto Rico at Humacao, who won second place in the college division in the 2012 race, brought home a first-place win, finishing in 3 minutes, 32 seconds.

Finishing in second place this year in the high school division was Jupiter High School Team 1 of Jupiter, Fla. In third place was Jupiter High School Team 2.

International Space Education Institute/Moscow Aviation University “Team Russia” of Moscow won second place in the college division; and Middle Tennessee State University of Murfreesboro took home third place.

Race organizers presented both first-place winners with trophies depicting NASA’s original lunar rover. Sponsor SAIC of Huntsville provided every participating moonbuggy team with a commemorative plaque. Sponsor Lockheed Martin Corp. of Huntsville presented the first-place high school and college teams with cash awards of $3,000 each.

Individuals on the winning teams also received commemorative medals and other prizes. (For a complete list of additional awards for design, most improved and spirit, see below.)

The race is inspired by the original lunar rover, first piloted across the moon’s surface in the early 1970s during the Apollo 15 mission, and used in the subsequent Apollo 16 and 17 missions. Eight college teams participated in the first NASA Great Moonbuggy Race in 1994. The race was expanded in 1996 to include high school teams, and student participation has swelled each year since.

NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race has been hosted by the U.S. Space & Rocket Center since 1996. Major corporate sponsors for the race are Lockheed Martin Corporation, The Boeing Company, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Aerojet and Jacobs Engineering ESSSA Group, all with operations in Huntsville.

For more information about the race, visit:

For information about other NASA education programs, visit:

NASA’s 20th Great Moonbuggy Race

Neil Armstrong Best Design Award (for solving engineering problems associated with lunar travel):
Academy of Arts, Careers & Technology in Reno, Nev.
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in Carbondale, Ill.

Featherweight Award (for the lightest buggy on the track):
Escuela Superior Rafaelina E. Labron Flores in Patillas, Puerto Rico
Purdue University Calumet Team 1 in Hammond, Ind.

AIAA Telemetry and Electronics Award (for the most innovative onboard data-gathering and delivery system):
Mukesh Patel School of Technology Management & Engineering in Maharashtra, India

Frank Joe Sexton Memorial Pit Crew Award (for ingenuity and persistence in overcoming problems during the race. Sexton, a NASA welder who mentored numerous welders and engineers among the Marshall workforce, worked on the original lunar rover and numerous other space vehicles until his death in 2000):
Fairhope High School Team 1 and Team 2 in Fairhope, Ala.
Texas A&M University-Kingsville in Kingsville, Texas

Crash and Burn Award (for the team that endures the most spectacular vehicle breakdown):
Bevill State Community College Team 1 in Sumiton, Ala.

Spirit Award (for overall team energy, enthusiasm and camaraderie):
Petra Mercado High School in Humacao, Puerto Rico

Rookie Award (for fastest course completion by a new race team):
Escuela Superior Rafaelina E. Labron Flores in Patillas, Puerto Rico
North Dakota State University in Fargo

Most Improved Award (for the most dramatically improved engineering and performance):
Huntsville Center for Technology Team 1 in Huntsville, Ala.
Middle Tennessee State University Team 1 in Murfreesboro

Best Report Award (technical documentation of the equipment and procedures used in design, build, test and the results obtained):
University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez

System Safety Award
University of Alabama in Huntsville

Lunartic Award (presented by AIAA to the team in each division that wins the Moon Bowl, a lunar science quiz):
New Britain High School in New Britain, Conn.
Accurate Institute of Management & Technology in Uttar Pradesh, India

Best Question of the Rover Pioneers Award (for best question asked during an April 26 event with members of the original lunar rover team):
Cape Girardeau Career & Tech Center in Cape Girardeau, Mo. — Husan Wadi

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.