Great Moonbuggy Race 2012
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Just before 7:30 Saturday morning, after years of one scheduling conflict after another, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden received his first glimpse of NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race.
He headed out of the parking lot of the U.S. Space Rocket Center and toward the Space Shuttle Pathfinder, near the starting line and the opening stretch of the course, which reaches slightly more than a half mile.
Accompanied by Acting Marshall Space Flight Center Gene Goldman, among others, he waited for the start of Saturday’s races, which began with a run by Vocational High School Teodoro Aguilar Mora of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico.
“I came in last night so I could be here for the start,” Bolden said. “I talked to the teams. I’m impressed by the spirit of the kids.”
Impressed, he said, that they would spend so much time on something that might not be widely popular in the minds of some of their friends. In their minds of the participants, though, “it’s really cool,” he said.
There were 88 teams, including teams from Russia, Germany, India, Canada and United Arab Emirates. Two local teams – the University of Alabama in Huntsville Team 1 and Arab High School Team 1 – finished among the winners.
UAH Team 1 won the college division with a total time of 4:03, followed by the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao (total time of 4:13) and Purdue University Calumet Team 1 (total time of 4:32).
Petra Mercado High School of Puerto Rico won the high school division with a total time of 3:20. Nuestra Senora del Perpetuo Soccoro of Puerto Rico was second (total time of 3:29) and Arab High School Team 1 was third (total time of 3:30.)
Such a large international presence impressed Bolden, too.
“We’re always working on international partnerships at NASA, and they’re getting an early start on that,” he said. “They may think they’re different, but they’re really not.”
Bolden watched the start of the races, saw the team from Vocational High School of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, navigate the first of the 17 obstacles, a series of gravel mounds to simulate the lunar rilles. He gave a happy, animated response, and moved toward the back of the course.
Later, he said he was impressed how the team from Puerto Rico and the other early participants had “mastered speed.”
Bolden said he had been wanting to come to the Great Moonbuggy Race for years.
“Something happened – another obligation,” he said. “I said, ‘This year, I’m going – I don’t care what happened.”‘
Bolden watched for about four hours before leaving around 11:30 a.m., said NASA spokeswoman Angela Storey.
Said Goldman: “He has been wanting to see this for a long time. It has been a matter of scheduling. He does such a great job with the students. He is inspired by them, and they are by him.”
The large international contingent at the Great Moonbuggy Race was among the things that inspired him. It’s emblematic of the next phase at NASA – Exploration Beyond Low Earth Orbit, he said.
“We won’t do it alone,” he said.Arab High School Team, puerto rico, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, great moonbuggy race, Vocational High School, Annual Great Moonbuggy Race <BR/>