The energy and efficiency of the German Space Education Institute team never ceases to amaze us. For the last couple days, they’ve been scrambling to get their moonbuggy reassembled after its cross-Atlantic voyage, putting it through its paces to ensure they’re ready for the race this weekend, spending time with fellow racers from around the globe, talking with local media and seeing the sights — and STILL team member Anne Geyer finds time to post some thoughts on the experience for the Buggy Blog! Thanks, Anne!
German Space Education Institute team member and blogger Anne Geyer.
(Photo: R. Heckel)
March 30, 2009
Today the alarm clock already rings 6:45 o’clock. A hard day approaches. Dress, breakfast and already it starts. 8 o’clock on time we drive onto the ground of the Huntsville Center for Technology. They are already waiting for us. First we greet the director, Mr. Turner, and then we take a short look into the school. We are received as we are used to — very friendly.
Tim White, the responsible teacher for the local moonbuggy team, shows us the workshop, which impresses us a lot. Lathes, upright drill presses and mills would be a dream for our garage in Leipzig. Many things might be finished considerably more quickly and in a simpler way, particularly for small changes to components a lot of work and of course time would be saved. Photos on the walls show their successes of the last years and their own test track.
The thoughts of going to race against a team that is so well prepared for the course worries me a little bit — there are already many advantages for the American teams: their own workshops, the support of the schools and the short journey, during which their moonbuggies do not have to be disassembled into pieces.
Next we get shown the moonbuggies. Yes it is not only one, there are FOUR. Two are still from the last year and two are driven for this year’s race by four teams. However, when we have a look at the moonbuggies more closely, my doubts are dispelled again. Our moonbuggy can keep up, definitively. It seems to be lighter and more flexible; however, [we won’t know for sure] until the race course itself, because we still lack experience.
We do not allow ourselves a lot of time for the comparing, because we want to begin at last. For tomorrow [Tuesday, March, 31] we are invited to a small test race at HCT and then the moonbuggy must go. However, before the assembly — the unpacking.
Team Germany starts assembling its buggy. (Photo: R. Heckel)
At last the chrome-plated parts lie cleanly and tidily on the workshop floor to be screwed together for our moonbuggy. Separately these parts seem insignificant, but in my head they get together to become a vehicle — one that is more than the sum of its components. All our hopes and dreams enter this work, and we are proud to have created it so far.
Christian and I work on the rear axle and attach the sub frame and the S-lead springs in order to mount the seat and the wheels. Lisa gets the seats with the new, freshly printed purchases. Fabian and Thommy work on the front-wheel suspension. The rear axle and the front axle are joined with each other. The basic thing is now created. Only still the front seat with the shock absorbers, some smaller precision adjustments, and the cable harness for the telemetry and the braking lines are missing. At the end, [we determine] whether all nuts are tightened. Then the moonbuggy is ready to start.
During the time we put that buggy together, a reporter and photographer of the Huntsville Times comes by. They take stock in our engineering. While declaring the construction, we notice how our enthusiasm is increasing more and more. Christian is explaining the most interesting parts, from the Schlumpf gears and the Rohloff transmission up to the differential, and with every point the astonishment became greater. Even the interior of the differential was examined with manifest astonishment.
But now it is done. After endless weekends of long work, and the 24-hour trip to Huntsville and an 5-hour uninterrupted assembling, we roll at last from the garage of the Center of Technology with our moonbuggy.
Lisa, our first pilot, describes her experiences as follows:
We turn our first round around the ground and all looks follow us. Curiously and skeptically the other teams look to us afterwards. I notice that the steering falls to me more easily today. And we are ready to go over the obstacle, a big gravel heap. The moonbuggy is put to test. At 20 kph, we direct to the obstacle, then everything works very quickly — a jump, a well subdued strike and already we are over the gravel heap. Slowly it starts to be fun, so we take another training round: jump over this and that obstacle, try us in sharp curves or test simply our high speed.
Lisa and Thommy brave the test track at the Huntsville Center for Technology.
HCT hosted the German team this year, and they’ve spent the week comparing notes
and helping each other practice. (Photo: R. Heckel)
Thommy, our other pilot, describes his first ride like this:
It is 1:30 p.m. when I drive the buggy for the first time on American ground. It is a special feeling. Lisa and I go into the sun and turn first just a small run around the building. This first test run proceeds very satisfactorily. No unexpected noises are heard and the mechanics function wonderfully. The gears work like a Swiss clockwork. We drive back to the garage and discuss the parts to be changed. Then we start onto the test course, which consists of several hills and obstacles. This training proceeds very well. We try out different situations. [We simulate getting stuck in gravel] to see whether we can fight with our gears out of this situation. Our moonbuggy masters this challenge with bravura. Indeed the wheels spin, but with united strengths, Lisa and I manage to drive it off the gravel. It is nice to know that we have a competitive buggy and that the work of the last weeks is quite exact and solid.
After long and hard practicing, we return our buggy to the garage at 5 o’clock and prepare it for the training tomorrow. We also visit with a team from India, who arrived today in Huntsville. They do not know yet how to get their buggy onto the wheels. It was transported as a whole and must be repaired now, they say.
All cleaned up at the end of the day, the team is ready to hit the town for
dinner — confident in a job well done. (Photo: R. Heckel)
It’s my idea to go to the Chinese restaurant where we ate very well three years ago. We all freshen up before we sit down in the car again and set off. Unfortunately it turns out that the restaurant is closed on Mondays! So Ralf decides we should go to the El Palacio restaurant in Huntsville to enjoy our dinner there. Presumably deserved, I think! It does not take a long time to be served. We eat our deliciousness from the Mexican kitchen. After that we sit down at our daily reports. I think that every evening should finish like this. We laugh a lot and we are totally happy that the day was successful.