Sunday, March 14, 2010

Countdown 2010 - Just 4 Weeks Left

written by Ralf Heckel
translated by Regina Peldszus

The NASA Moonbuggy Race demands utmost commitment of its participants. 11 months after the last event we're in final preparations again. There are only 4 weeks left until the race, and our plane takes off in three.

After experiencing 4 Moonbuggy-Races and taking part myself three times successfully, I would have thought there'd finally be a routine. But far off. Again we're under pressure to get everything done on time, and it affects us as teamleaders more than the other members of the team. There are no Easter vacations, and therefore no time for unforeseen events. Despite all this, many things are different this particular year, and that's why I want to offer some insights and encourage people to participate.

The original Team Germany of the last years does not exist anymore. Most of them have graduated from highschool last year and are now all over the world, also thanks to the unique references of the Moon Buggy Race. Nadine is studying, Vanessa is doing work experience in the US, Lisa is in New Zealand, Thommy is doing compulsory army service, and the others mostly went straight into engineering degrees. Therefore we have been focusing on promoting the Moonbuggy Race and Space Education throughout 2009. The German Moonbuggy was on the road in 8 European countries over 10,000 km (6200 miles). We even built a bespoke trailer which delivered everything you need on such trips, including solar power. Our core task was to raise awareness in Eastern Europe, especially Ukraine, Hungaria and Russia.

Hence we took the Buggy to the marinas on Crimea, to the piers in Rostock, to Budapest, Bucarest, Munich, to Dresden's Frauenkirche and to Prague. There was a lot of interest and astonishment everywhere. However, only a few students and schools are really prepared to accept the challenges that are associated with it. We did 120 workshops and events with and for students. We invited Russian space students to Moonbuggy workshops in Germany and gave countless talks at schools.

We were especially delighted to cooperate with the Chamber of Trade, Leipzig, and their vocational education centre. It is there where the Moonbuggy really begins to feature as an object of orientation for a technical vocation. Many apprentices lend their hand to work on the Moonbuggy.

As a result, our Moonbuggy is now entirely modeled in CAD and, with a prototype series of five slightly different types, we have a proper fleet that serves test and training purposes.

In the past few years there was no winter and spring. The only important topic for the first 3 months of the year was – the Moonbuggy. That required the team leader and most of the students to put in 18-20hrs a day.

It's a bit different today. Of course we're still very busy, but we manage to call it a day on time and make time for family and others every now and then. The students are more independent, and there are more of them. It's not just individual esponsibilities any more, but more delegation of different tasks throughout the team. The cold days of the winter are spent in the warm workshops of the technology centre of the Chamber of Trade to work on the Buggy.

However, traveling to the competition is still an open book. There is no knowing whether it'll work out. There are two new hurdles to take. These are different luggage regulations and the selection of the racers. We need to raise 100 Euro more in fees for luggage for each suitcase. Last year, each passenger was permitted to bring two pieces of baggage for free – today the second suitcase is charged at 100 Euro. The third suitcase is 400 Euro already. The Moonbuggy fits into 7 suitcases – but we're only 4-5 passengers. So far, we've always beenable to fit everything, including our personal items, into 12 suitcases. Now we can only use 4-5. So we'll have to pay dearly.

The selection of racers and the Huntsville-bound team has become more complicated. The old hands have left high school and the universities have little time for the Moonbuggy. The Masters degrees require a lot of commitment from the students. The youngsters, however, have a lot of respect for the race. Most of them don't feel ready for it yet, or aren't able to fund or raise the high travel costs. German schools don't sponsor the programme financially. It is even more difficult to find a female racer. One of our candidates is in an important different competition, the other one is abroad on student exchange, the last one had a skiing accident. Another possible driver is so young that her parents would have to chaperone her on the trip – but cannot afford the ticket. If the problems of the past years were of practical nature, we're now at a stage where we can only find solutions with experience and good management. The actual construction of the Moonbuggy, however, is more of a routine now.

This weekend, Thommy and Stefan want to get the Moonbuggy ready for a test drive. A new girl will be the test-driver. A lot of sports cyclists are already interested in this, and are keen to participate in the workshops – as soon as there is time.

Will the Moonbuggy and its many new refinements in stability and weight reduction be ready in time? Will the new test driver (she's only 13) meet the requirements?

You will find out by April 3rd 2010, our planned date of departure!

See our blog at:

No comments:

Post a Comment