Moonbuggy Races 2.0

Saturday, April 12, 2014
This weekend was the annual NASA Moonbuggy Races. Except this year they got a little bit of a makeover and a new name...the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge. Not quite as catchy in my opinion. I hear the name change had something to do with getting funding to continue the race when congress had to "cut moonbuggy race funding."

The Rover Challenge is largely the same event with some new rules and new obstacles. For example teams are not longer allowed to have inflatable tires...because hello that would not be terribly useful in a microgravity situation. The course was also made overall more difficult...which showed in the number of teams that struggled to make it through (even teams that finished really well in years past).

Another change is the renaming of many of the awards and the disappointing fact that the Nancy Gibson Memorial Spirit Award of the Moonbuggy Races is now just the NASA Team Spirit Award of the Rover Challenge. I am disappointed but understand that change happens and I am very grateful that mom was honored and remembered in that way for several years. The moonbuggy races have provided so many special memories that I will always have...memories of my mom taking me out of school so I could help with the event.

Regardless of awards and names I will continue to volunteer at the event. It is a seriously cool way to spend a weekend. And I love that we are still creating memories there as a family like my mom did with me. In that frame of mind my alarm went off at 5 am both Friday and Saturday morning and I got a large cup of coffee and headed towards the Space and Rocket Center.

Friday morning I was judging obstacle number 15, the last obstacle, right under the shuttle. It was a great place to be positioned because you could see the start and finish line. There was also lots of room and grassy hills for Perry to play on when he and Andrew came to visit.

It was a series of gravel bumps, called the "Undulating Terrain." It was not a killer of an obstacle, but caused quite an issue for buggies rovers that came to us a bit beat and battered. As rovers went through we calculated and documented penalties, called them in on the radio and reset the obstacle with a rake and shovel. The first few rovers went quickly and most sailed through our obstacle since these were the best teams from last year. Then things slowed down a little. Many teams were out pushing their rovers through by the time they got to us, and we cheered them along to the finish line.

Perry loved playing on and around the obstacle. In another couple years I can put him to work on the course with the shovel.  Don't worry we made very sure there were no rovers coming when he went out there. Also, don't worry, he was wearing sunscreen. We were not about to have a repeat of last years sunburn incident. 

I love that boy so much!

Saturday morning I was at obstacle number 10, the "tilted craters" (aka tires covered in gravel), near the back of rocket park.

The weather was spectacular all weekend. A little brisk in the morning but warm by lunchtime. I honestly have no idea who won the race, since I didn't stick around for the awards ceremony this year. Instead I headed home for a fun spring afternoon with Andrew and P. No matter who won though all the teams worked crazy hard just to get there and make it through that course. Way more than I could do. I am better on the sidelines with a walkie talkie and a rake.

Until next time, Rover Challenge.

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