Ready to Defend Their Crown

The International Space Education Institute is headed stateside as we post this. We’re excited to see what Ralf Heckel’s team brings this year, not just to the high school division — which they won in 2010 — but to the college division as well. Here’s German high school racer Nadin Rössler with an update…

International Space Education Institute, Leipzig, Germany
No. of teams in 2011: 2 (one high school team, one college team)
2010 rank: Finished 1st in high school division
Best score to date: 1st place, 2010, finishing in 3 minutes 37 seconds

International Space Education Institute racers train for the race near the
MDR Tower in Leipzig. (Ralf Heckel)

The NASA Great Moonbuggy Race is the chance for showing new possibilities and for showing a new way of thinking. It’ also a great possibility for me to be a member of that great run. I’m Nadin Rössler, 17 years old, from Chemnitz, a German town between Leipzig and Dresden. There, I am a student of the Johann Wolfgang von Goethe High School, which also supports our project.

Certainly, everybody has to get a special feeling for the race. NASA and “moonbuggy” seem to be words which are far away from us normal scholars and students. It’s crazy, to be a part of such a great chance. But for calming down and understanding, we also prepared mentally for the race — we watched films of the moonbuggies, read articles and spoke with the “ingrained” members. It was a really good and important help to realize our potential, to see that the future needs young people like us who have new ideas and new ways of thinking. That’s why it isn’t impossible to take part in such great races. And that’s a thing — I’m really full of pride.

Buggy drivers Max and Nadin train on their tandem bicycle. (Ralf Heckel)

To find a design for our moonbuggy wasn’t our most difficult job. Our team has taken part in the Moonbuggy Race for more than five years. But we had to perfect our buggy. And that doesn’t mean to change design, color or structure — we changed the weight, the wheels and the stability. All in all, we will have a very light and flexible buggy this year. And we’re all very proud of the results of our work.

For building our buggy, we needed a lot of time. Every weekend we were in the International Space Education Institute for drilling and welding. Last year, our buggy reached a speed of 50 mph. That’s why we did a crash test this year, to guarantee our safety on the buggy.

Now, after a lot of sweat and brainpower, we look forward to Huntsville and are excited to see the other buggies. We hope and believe it will be an unbelievable time for us.

The race is also a question of fitness.  Our way of training included a lot of tours with bikes. But not just normal bicycles — we also had a tandem for riding together and a recumbent bike for learning how to sit in a moonbuggy. The plan for our trips often was a tour to a lot of beautiful parts of Leipzig. Among them is a bicycle park with small hills specially made for passing on bikes. Some of us dared the course while the others cheered. We took countless photos and films. It was a lot of fun to watch the others and to try driving over the hills by myself. With that funny way of training we got not just healthier and more prepared for the event, but we also got team players.

To get prepared for the run doesn’t just mean to train until the sun is setting. It also means to have fun with the group and to experience the world together. That’s why we made more than 150 trips this year through Germany and Europe. We were in small towns such as Borsdorf, Eisenach and Peenemünde, and also visited great cities like Moscow. We took a lot of new memories with us, and it really helped turn us into team players.

The team! Clockwise from the top: Roman, Thommy, Max, Nadin, Krissi, Eric,
Marine and Evgeniy. (Ralf Heckel)

It’s our aim to walk the same way together — the way to the Great Moonbuggy Race in the USA. We are all very proud to be members of this fantastic competition. Everybody is excited, and each one wants to perform with excellence.

We are the only members from Europe who will come to the race this year, so it’s our aim to attract more European students because the moonbuggy gives many scholars the chance to learn new ways of thinking. We learn working in a team, training with the team and exploring with the team. It’s a chance to learn new things in science and engineering.

And we’re all very excited about how our buggy will come through the race. Maybe ours is the fastest. Or the lightest.

No matter what happens — for us, our moonbuggy is the best.

March Madness — Moonbuggy-style

March is rolling right along, and a total of 82 teams are getting ready for the trip to Huntsville. We heard this week from a couple of competitors, who updated us on their buggy-building efforts.

Lima Senior High School, Lima Ohio
No. of teams in 2011: 2
2010 rank: Finished 14th (Team 1) and 17th (Team 2)
Best score to date: 4th place, 2008, finishing in 7 minutes 23 seconds (Team 2)

The teams are really pumped and ready to go! The Lima Senior Moonbuggy Teams have been hard at work completing the build of the buggies. Since first competing in the NASA Great Moonbuggy Race in 2007, the Lima Senior Spartans have learned many strategies for coping with the difficulties that we will inevitably face.

When asked to comment on the current state of his team’s buggy, team leader Brady Shafer said, “We came into a snag on the rear [of the buggy], so we have shifted gears and begun to work on the front of the buggy.”

Shafer’s fellow team leader Sarah Koza is very excited for the race. “The buggy is really starting to move forward,” she said. “After dealing with a few problems, including the dimensions of the buggy, we have had to adjust our design accordingly.”

“We really want to make our hometown proud!” said Brittany Koza, the team’s public relations director and spirit coordinator. “Being one of the only teams from Ohio, our teams really want to represent our state, as well as the town of Lima.”

Lima Senior High typically brings along one of the largest cheering sections, as they
did for the 17th annual NASA Great Moonbuggy Race in April 2010. (NASA/MSFC/
David Higginbotham)

Both moonbuggy teams are working hard to finish and test the buggies, and the marketing and public relations teams are working diligently to complete the final tasks necessary to travel to Alabama.

“We have been preparing to be able to relay race information to the Lima News while in Huntsville,” said Bryson Tarbet, the team’s technology coordinator. “Last year, we had the opportunity to have a large article in the Lima News, but due to computer problems, the information never made it back to Lima.”

Lima Senior High graduate Ashton Tarbet, who drove one of the team’s buggies in the 2010 competition, looks forward to traveling to Alabama with this year’s team. “I have applied the skills and experiences I gained from being a member of Moonbuggy toward my college classes,” he said. “I am very excited to see how the new buggies compare to the ones we built in the past.”

We will be updating our social media accounts regularly from now until after the race. Follow @LSHMoonbuggy on Twitter, or find the Lima Senior High School Moonbuggy Team on Facebook.

Editor’s Note: We don’t call them “Loud Lima” for nothing — every year, a huge contingent of Lima supporters road-trips to Huntsville to root for their team. We look forward to seeing (and hearing) them again this year!

International Space Education Institute, Leipzig, Germany
No. of teams in 2011: 2 (one high school team, one college team)
2010 rank: Finished 1st in high school division
Best score to date: 1st place, 2010, finishing in 3 minutes 37 seconds

Ralf Heckel, team advisor for the International Space Education Institute, saw his team take home the first place trophy in the high school division in 2010. This year, he’s back with not one team, but two. Crowd favorite “Team Germany” — which this year will include high school students from Germany, Russia and China — will defend its title, while an all-new Russian team will also take the field to represent the institute in the college division. Here’s Ralf…

If, in the future, we want to settle the moon and the planets as we live in orbit right now, we’ll need to be willing to swap nationality against an “Earth citizenship” Exploring space is the task of humanity as a whole. It may be pioneered by several nations at first, but at the end of the day we’ll all have to be prepared to work together smoothly to discover the new. Great achievements are only possible in a team, with impeccable excellence and consideration for safety above all. These are the core values of NASA and the house rules of the International Space Education Institute. And I love them — thank you, America!

Last year, we scored the best time in the NASA Great Moonbuggy Race. For a long while afterward, we didn’t really realize what that meant. The success was such a surprise that each of our team was unprepared. After all, it’s only 1 second of a difference — not more, and not less. But it was pivotal. And the moonbuggy by the team of Fajardo Vocational High School in Puerto Rico and ours couldn’t be more different. That single second showed that many ways lead to success. Thank you, Puerto Rico, for this experience!

For the first time, a foreign team took the title. Was that a little Sputnik-style shock? Then again, why not? We never understood the Moonbuggy Race to be a one-off event, but a never-ending journey. Still, we were conscious of having roused your enthusiasm, and that made us proud. We know that there is only one goal for each of you: to be better. All the team members from Germany are keeping this in mind too.

Since our first international participation five years ago, it’s become increasingly vital for us also to inspire other nations for the Moonbuggy Race. The Moonbuggy has a great future if it goes multinational. Our nations — the United States, Germany, Russia — have a common historic core. This is where space exploration began. German engineers were also working in Russia on the rockets for Sputnik and Gagarin, like the von Braun team in Huntsville.

International Space Education Institute racers speed past a distinctly Russian
landmark. (Photo: Ralf Heckel)

It is therefore with great pleasure that we present two Russian teams in 2011, this special year. One team is driving under our support. Another, from the Moscow Aviation University, initially trained with us, and now want to be in competition. We’re really excited.

Just like in America, Russia is celebrating 40 Years of the Lunar Rover. Lunokhod 1 was an automatic rover that landed on the moon a bit earlier than NASA’s Lunar Roving Vehicle. Lunokhod 1 took 20,000 photographs, 200 films and covered some 7 miles on the moon. In addition, April 12 is a double anniversary: Thirty years of the Space Shuttle program and 50 years since Yuri Gagarin’s first flight to space.

Both are firsts, ground-breaking achievements. They’re based on excellence, integrity and team spirit.

I’m convinced this is what you’ll all be bringing to the race.

Editor’s Note: Our appreciation to Regina Peldszus of Kingston University in London for translating Ralf’s material.