Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Moonbuggy World Champion – An Unexpected Title

written by Ralf Heckel, International Space Education Institute
translated by Regina Peldszus, Kingston University London
corrected by Terry Wall, MSFC

Huntsville, April 12th 2010


The unexpected has happened. Beating 2nd place team by just one second, our team became the 1st place winner this year. The following 4 teams were close behind, within 4 seconds. Of all the scores, even of the university class, our team is the best worldwide. It's not explicitly mentioned, but it's a fact.

One team (Jupiter High School of Florida, USA) was faster by 4 seconds on the race course, but their design was lacking when un-folding the buggy. While our team was ready to gorace in 6 seconds, the faster team took 16 seconds. The fastest assembly time was only 4 seconds, but that team's parts wouldn't have fit into a collection of luggage suitcases.

Thus in this sense, our team is the world champion! – a title that's logic, but which wasn't mentioned.

Today is a cosmonautics celebration day. 49 years ago, Yuri Gagarin went into space, and 29 years ago the Space Shuttle first orbited Earth. I'm looking towards the future: Will we succeed in having a Russian team join us in the upcoming anniversary year? It could be a small but important "space race" for the youth. For next year, also the Lunar Rover celebrates its 40th anniversary. In my experience, national thinking is not easily left behind when not working in multi-national teams. Here, it could serve for motivating all parties to achieve their best.

I'd like to recap the previous hours while they're still fresh in my mind. Again I'm taking the team to the Space & Rocket Center. The kids are full of energy and drive, cool and focused, ambitious and deliberate in their striving to unite their feelings for a single cause. This is how I've known them for four years. This is the most amazing time for every teacher or youth educator. But this moment only happens before the Moonbuggy Race or in Moscow / Star City. No-one but me, Yvonne and a small number of teachers really know how this moment feels.

I know that this moment won't last and that it really depends on the success and attention of the organisers. We lost too many students during the last years due to "burn out" following the race – the requirements in addition to the long journey and high costs are too tough. Those who stuck with it and didn't give up are here behind me. I'm driving as carefully as if I was carrying the national gold reserves in my van.

It's not busy yet on the course. The team is toughened up after the success yesterday. Max goes through his training drill with the drivers and I re-position the cameras. This time the van will become a Mission Control Center for the telemetry data that we cherish so much. It has a long antenna mounted to the roof.

I notice that there is none of the usual Moonbuggy excitement as there's hardly anyone in position. The team isn't worried. There are no typical worries such as: "Do we need to be faster today? ... How are the others doing? ... What do we need to take special care of?" To be in pole position is a heavy lot. However, the birds are chirping and the warming sun reaches out over the tree tops and doesn't distract from the goal. Both drivers have watched their board video and telemetry data for a long time yesterday. They have developed new strategies with their 17 year old trainer Max, and position their pedals in a cross. That's how they want to avoid progressive thrust and slip during the start.

The reward comes promptly: NASA twitters: "Steffi and Stefan get off to a killer start – no Obstacle 1 penalties". I'm at the toughest obstacle, the Lunatic Curve and have three cameras ready. The two come in with incredible speed (according to telemetry 15mph/24kmh). Stefan looks relaxed after experiencing his speed record of 50mph/80kmh on a trail, and hits the brakes 2ft/50cm before the obstacle. After a fraction of a second he immediately releases the brakes. He knows that he's now in control of more than 1g, which in turn heats up the brake discs to 600°C. He is steering a machine with a combined mass of more than 400 pounds/200 kg.

For a short time, the buggy dives as far as it's able to into its front axle suspension travel and then, released again, rises over the steep hill. After checking telemetry, Stefan managed an acceleration of 36,5 ft/s² (11.5 m/s²). That's an overload of more than 1g. Well done! This is how you turn "Hase-shock absorbers" into kangaroo legs with gauge airpressure. While the wheels touch the uneven gravel, they are not strained. Stefan's front wheels cannot grip and the moonbuggy starts to fishtail slightly. Steffi's rear wheels have reached the obstacle. She has S-Ply-Springs from glass fibre, a material that Mercedes is using for their rear axles in the new S Class. Although Stefan is immediately regains control of the vehicle again, the momentary swerve of the front wheels causes an undeliberate sideways shift to Steffi. Her end of the vehicle twists sideways like an untamed mustang, riding on a single wheel for several tense seconds. After our off-road training she knows to stay cool and trust the moonbuggy's design and construction. Nevertheless she utters a loud "ooops". At 30° floor pitch the angle limiter in the torsion joint of the vehicle frame grips. The right rear wheel starts to deform menacingly sideways. Then Steffi is catapulted back into horizontal, both drivers go full throttle and speed away, after they brush a concrete block from the course with their left rear wheel.

The onlookers – at this point still few – hold their breath for a second. When they realize that all went well, they break into a loud and astonished laughter. Nevertheless, I'm not happy – we lost about 2 seconds here. In my head, torsion bar absorbers and double track rims with double upright profile flash up. But there is no time. I run straight over to meet them at the next position.

In the moon crater, I can see no mistakes nor faults. The vehicle delivers an outstanding performance. They drift around the concrete curves. This puts strain on the rear wheels that are not entirely finetuned yet for a Moonbuggy Race. Here we have to sit together with our tire sponsor "Schwalbe" and soup up "Big Betty" (a new profile at 3.75inch tire width). Until now we had used suitable tires for the rear bar, but they were not the sponsor's – not very sophisticated. "Schwalbe" will have to step it up in future to stay on board. The photos and videos are taken. I hurry onwards.

Max leaps over a hedge and positions his camera as agreed below the obstacles in front of the Saturn I rocket. When the buggy shoots by, there is a swerve on the obstacle and he recoils. I sense that both drivers have reached their limit and that we need a steering damper when the buggy is flying. When it's going uphill, I'm cheering them on. And I'm out of breath myself. I point the camera at the two and run after them.

When they reach the downhill track in front of the Space Shuttle, Steffi is catapulted up. Here we definitely have to increase the damping effect of the rear absorbers. Then they speed away to the sand obstacle. I don't worry about that one. That was never a real problem for us. I take a shortcut and try to meet them at the finishing line. I just about manage to take two pictures when they thunder through the finish with a loud honking of our 120psi (8 atmospheres = 118psig) pressure tank for our DEKRA-sponsored air horn (a superlight green plastic Sprite bottle).

Again, both drivers are absolutely exhausted and only listen to the time for their run. It is announced as, again, 3:31min. This is the exact same time as yesterday. Nobody knows what to think of this. Now, is that good or not?

The other teams make it through the course in quick succession. It's a festival without comparison. Wheels give way, tires burst with a loud pop, tie rods bend, chassis break up. Some of them make it through, even in the same time as we did – but none of them reach our total score. Then there is a fleet from India. Some call it "Rikshah-fleet". Many buggies are too high and not stable enough. I feel compelled to offer some advice, but have to get back to the laptop. The tips can wait til our Moonbuggy summer workshop.

I collect videos and photos. We had 6 cameras on duty! Then I start processing them, evaluate telemetry and upload first results online. The organizers have measured the race time exactly. With board video and telemetry I'm getting the same results independently – and in our case this is exact like an atomic clock. After 6 hours my head is smoking and I'm hungry. We're still number one.

I walk towards the buggy. It's 2pm. There are only the "bones" left of the German Moonbuggy. Everything is dismantled. I sit down in the tent and work away in the shade while the team is busy getting the buggy flight-ready. Terry gets the truck and everything is loaded. There a 6 suitcases left and a few parts of our "fighter jet".

We send the final emails off and are ready just before the awards ceremony. Good timing!

Now it's uncharted territory for us. According to the rules of the hosts we should receive two awards – "Winning Team" and "Best International Team Award". We already got this award, endowed by NASA Headquarters a year ago. But this year we have managed the best time amongst all international teams – even better: amongst all participating teams. I particularly remember the meeting I had with the director of the organizers, Sabrina Pearson, in the Marriot Hotel in December 2008. Then I reported the additional hurdles an international team has to take and asked for a small acknowledgment. I was heard – even at NASA administration. Prof. von Puttkamer himself, born in Leipzig, came from Washington and presented that award to us from Leipzig.

This award ceremony was different. We received an award for "Winning Team", without getting a receipt like the US teams, which is the actual purpose of this award. The regulations for "Best International Team" were apparently changed without notification. Another team got that award. Also, we were very surprised when the "Most Improved Award" was this year endowed with a cash price of $250 for the US team. We received this award last year, but had to pay €50 customs for it – without a cash price, although it was presented by the same founder, "Jacobs Industries".

The assumption is starting to form that the hosts are not yet ready to meet the immense increase in international demand (caused and promoted by NASA HQ) of the Moonbuggy Race. There is a real need for support so as to avoid a loss of sophistication of the race. I am in the process of thinking how I can assist in this respect as an integrated adviser. We really need to reduce the progression of international participants without damping their enthusiasm. We need continental rounds. We can take care of Europe and Asia, but not more.

For this to work, the hosts need to be prepared to share reputation and workload, as the NASA values suggest.



Huntsville Times:





Space Pragmatism:


ddp (german press agency):

German Press in english:

Freie Presse:

German Spacenet:

LVZ-online (Leipzig):

Info-TV Leipzig (same as channel 31):



Start-Up Magazine, Germany:

chamber for handicraft:,0,1942.html

Sunday, April 11, 2010


April 10, 2010

Angela Storey
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.


Teams from Germany, Puerto Rico top high school, college divisions

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- NASA has announced the victors in the 17th annual Great Moonbuggy Race: The team representing the International Space Education Institute of Leipzig, Germany, won the high school division; and racers from the University of Puerto Rico in Humacao took first place in the college division.

The teams bested more than 70 teams from 18 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, Germany, India and Romania. More than 600 drivers, engineers and mechanics -- all students -- gathered with their team advisors and cheering sections to take part in the matchup of wits and wheels at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center April 9-10 in Huntsville, Ala.

The race is organized by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. It challenges students to design, build and race lightweight, human-powered buggies that tackle many of the same engineering challenges dealt with by Apollo-era lunar rover developers at the Marshall Center in the late 1960s.

The International Space Education Institute, known among moonbuggy racers as "Team Germany," has been a prominent contender in the competition since they debuted in 2007 as the German Space Education Institute. Their team this year included two Russian students, reflecting the school's expanded international scope.

The University of Puerto Rico in Humacao -- the only school in the world to enter a moonbuggy in every race since the event was founded in 1994 -- won the second-place prize in 2009, and finally took home first place in this, their 17th appearance.

The winning teams posted the fastest vehicle assembly and race times in their divisions and received the fewest on-course penalties. The International Space Education Institute finished the roughly half-mile course -- twisting curves, treacherous gravel pits and other obstacles simulating lunar surface conditions -- in just 3 minutes 37 seconds. The University of Puerto Rico at Humacao posted a time of 4 minutes 18 seconds.

Finishing in second place this year in the high school division was Fajardo Vocational High School of Humacao, Puerto Rico, which entered the competition for the first time in 2009. Third place in the high school division yielded a tie: race newcomer Jupiter High School of Jupiter, Fla., matched perennial top-three winner Huntsville Center for Technology Team 1
of Huntsville, Ala. -- who also tied last year for the top high school trophy.

The University of Utah from Salt Lake City won second place in the college division, boosting them onto the trophy platform for the first time since they debuted in the race in 2007; and the Rhode Island School of Design from Providence, R.I., took home third place in their first race appearance --  despite having no engineers on their team (all team members are industrial design students).

Race organizers presented both first-place winners with trophies depicting NASA's original lunar rover. NASA also gave plaques and certificates to every team that competed.

The first-place high school team also received $500 and a week at Space Camp, courtesy of race sponsors ATK Aerospace Systems of Huntsville. ATK awarded the second- and third-place high school teams $250 each. Race sponsor Lockheed Martin Corp. of Huntsville also presented the winning college team with $5,700 in cash. Individuals on the winning teams also received commemorative medals and other prizes. (For a complete list of additional awards for design, safety, innovation and spirit, see below.)

"Each year, NASA's Great Moonbuggy Race clearly demonstrates the popularity, worldwide reach and intrinsic value of the agency's education initiatives," said Tammy Rowan, manager of the Marshall Center's Academic Affairs Office, which organizes the race. "It's our goal to augment and enrich the classroom experience, and inspire a new generation of scientists, engineers and explorers to carry on NASA's mission of discovery throughout our solar system and deliver untold benefits back home on Earth."

The moonbuggy race is inspired by the original lunar rover, first piloted across the moon's surface in the early 1970s during the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions. The first race, held in 1994, commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. At the time, the event was only open to college teams, and eight participated. Two years later, the event was expanded to include high school teams.

NASA's Great Moonbuggy Race is hosted each year by the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. Major corporate sponsorship is provided by Lockheed Martin Corp., The Boeing Company, Northrop Grumman Corp., and Jacobs Engineering ESTS Group, all of Huntsville

For photos of winning teams, visit:

For more information about the race, visit:

For information about other NASA education programs, visit:

NASA's 17th annual Great Moonbuggy Race

Best Moonbuggy Design (for solving engineering problems associated with
lunar travel)
o Teodoro Aguilar Mora Vocational High School Team 2, Yabucoa, Puerto Rico
o University of Alabama in Huntsville, Ala.

Featherweight Award
o Jupiter High School, Jupiter, Fla.
o University of Puerto Rico in Humacao, Puerto Rico

Best Performance by an International Team
o Fajardo Vocational High School, Humacao, Puerto Rico
o Krishna Engineering College, Ghaziabad, India

NASA Systems Safety Award (for the safest approach to building, testing and
o Tudor Viamu National High School of Computer Science Team 2, Bucharest,
o University of Alabama in Huntsville, Ala.

Pits Crew Award for ingenuity and persistence in overcoming problems during
the race
o Carlisle County High School, Bardwell, Ky.
o C.T. Institute of Engineering, Management & Technology, Jalandhar, India

Crash and Burn Award (for the team that endures the most spectacular vehicle
o Erie High School Team 2, Erie, Kan.

Best Team Spirit (for overall team energy, enthusiasm and camaraderie)
o Pana High School, Pana, Ill.
o Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio

Rookie Award (for fastest course completion by a new race team)
o Jupiter High School, Jupiter, Fla.
o Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, R.I.

Most Improved Award (for the most dramatically improved engineering and
o Fairhope High School Team 1, Fairhope, Ala.
o Cameron University, Lawton, Okla.


News release


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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Will we live the dream?

Stefan Martini
Mission 3, Moonbuggy 2010

Huntsville, April 9th, 2010


It's 5 in the morning when Steffi tries to wake me up gently. Despite the short night I'm quite awake. After a hearty breakfast we're on our way to the Space & Rocket Center. Upon arrival, we take the Moonbuggy straight to the welding machine to finally fix our handle bar. With a mix of metric and imperial tools we tweek away at an improvised solution. Then we're back at our booth and spend 15min warming up, 10min less than planned. Max changes the programme and warms us up with several scuttling exercises. We get on the buggy, get our energy drink and focus on the race.

5 minutes to go. Surprisingly I'm hardly excited at all. Nevertheless Max goes through the course with me mentally and tries to prepare me perfectly for the race. I'm glad to have a veteran like him in our team. Steffi who's behind me on the buggy can hardly keep quiet. She chats to anyone who passes by and keeps getting off the buggy. That's probably her way of dealing with the pressure.

Team 5 passes by. As we're directly next to the gate of the start, we can join Team 5, as we're ready to go. Someone from the official NASA team comes over and asks us whether we're ready. We agree and drive over to the spot where they evaluate whether you're complying with all the rules. Also, the buggy is folded up and carried a short distance. Then we get the first timed race. We have to get the buggy ready to start as fast as we can and sit in it with all buckles fastened. If you look at the video, I'm amazed myself that we managed to do it that quickly. In all our previous attempts we've managed about 8 seconds. But now we're full of adrenalin. The umpire measures an amazing 6 seconds. That's fantastic.

Motivated we proceed to the start. It's almost too swiftly for me. I almost can't focus on the course, but I'm glad we've done that before the race. After a short interview, it's time. Ready, set, go! We tread the pedals. Both wheels go into overdrive. We give less juice. At once there's the first obstacle, funnily enough the buggy flies over the first obstacle. The rest goes smoothly and we don't realise the remaining bumps. Then it's downhill, followed by a difficult obstacle which you need to take with a lot of speed. The problem is that there is a 90° hard shoulder straight afterwards and you can easily jump off track. That proved the buggy killer number one in previous years! A lot of rims gave up here in the past. Also because Steffi shouts "break!" from behind, I'm taking the hurdle with more respect. When it's behind us, I realise that the officials have made this quite a bit smoother than last year.

Now there's the horizontal part with a few pebbled tracks. After that there's another 90° curve with a hurdle. That means I have to aim to get into the curve in a wider berth to approach the hurdle directly and use the entire force of the drive to avoid falling of the side of the bump. As planned we pass the dirt bump. The track goes on uphill over two obstacles and along a couple of pistes into the crater. As in the final years, this is the most exhausting part in the middle of the race. I try to negotiate as many loose rocks as possible, since in the concrete crater it is in fact the rocks that make driving hard.

Then there are more curves with more or less difficult hurdles where I start feeling my legs. A sharp curve below the rocket and through to the final steep ascent. He're everyone's down to walking speed. That means you're exerting your final power reserves, if you have any left.

Then it's just downhill, over a couple of dirt hills back to the Shuttle. Here another few tricky hurdles await. There's a 4m long sandbank and dovetailing hills on which we've tailored the steering mechanism in our buggy perfectly. Nevertheless, we lose, as all the other teams, a lot of time here as the ground is soft an offers a lot of resistance.

That's why the final meters are pure torture. I remember that I'm supposed to honk the horn and enter the finish with Steffi, totally exhausted. Everything worked out and is still stable. My gutfeeling tells me that the race must have been good, around 4 minutes and therefore maybe a score in the front area of the field. I've given everything and can't even sit up straight when the NASA reporter is there to ask me questions. I try to answer but can't string a coherent sentence together, so she goes over to Steffi. She still has some strenght left and kann answer, at least in short sentences. The only thing I want to do is lie down. I unfasten my seat-belt, summon my last ounces of strength and sit down on the dewy grass, knees shaking. That my clothes get wet doesn't bother me. I notice how someone jumps on me with a great shriek. It's Steffi who announces amazedly that we were 3 seconds faster than the team of the Huntsville Technology Center who scored best last year. At once we wonder how long they need to fold up their vehicle. After a short while we get confirmation that we drove the annual track record with 3:31min and also needed 3 seconds less for the fold-up.

I'm absolutely speechless. We're first!!! And that despite of the fact that most of the best teams started before us. I'm proud of our achievement. But somehow I knew that the buggy had matured into a single unit with Steffi and myself in order to pull of a miracle and reward our hard work during the past years. The team gathers together around us, who're still on the grass, exhausted but elated. We can hardly believe it. The track record is about 3:15min. But as it will turn out later today, this isn't nearly reached.

On getting some strength, we're off back to our booth. Apparently the news spread through the grapevine, as there are congratulations from everywhere. A lot of people make a point of dropping by to congratulate us, and also when we move around the area we're met with beaming faces, some of whom are even German and wish us all the best in our mother tongue. It's so unbelievable how nice and open everyone is.

We spend the remaining long day in the area. We either go and see other buggies on their test drives, check out the rides or stroll through the museum. We regularly come back to the score tables on which we're leading for a long time. However, towards the end of the race we get the news that another team beat us by 3 seconds. Again we're asking ourselves immediately how long they needed to fold up the buggy. With a small delay, there are the news that they actually took 10 seconds longer. So we keep the first place until the end of the day and are overjoyed. Finally, we invite the other international teams for a little get-together to get this international community to further coordinate their collaborative efforts and to promote the Moonbuggy Race in the entire world.


Moonbuggy Race - Day One

Stephanie Fleischer
Moonbuggy Team 2010

April 9th, 2010


I get up at 5am to have a shower, then wake up the boys and Lauren. We all make our way to the kitchen to grab a quick bite to eat. We're so excited that we can't eat as much as we'd want to. Just after 6am we're off. While in the car, we make a couple of quick phone calls to people in Germany. The Chamber of Trade, for instance, has given an interview at Radio Leipzig since no-one of our team was in the country. Some of the apprentices and masters from the Vocational & Technology Center can't believe we've just descended a hill in Huntsville with 80km/hr, and I'm so excited that I can't stop talking.

We arrive at the Space & Rocket Center and the excitement in the team and the seriousness of the competition becomes obvious when we check out the other teams with their trailers and Moonbuggies. Also the cool whether causes us goose-bumps. We still have to fix the steering bar. So we're walking over to the Pit-Tent to sort it out, where other teams are already queuing to welder their buggies.

Now we're over at our own tent to warm up. Tension is mounting and it really shows with me. I can't sit still and talk non-stop. Now it's time. A last glance on my watch tells me it's just after 8am, when one of the organisers picks us up.

At first we meet the examiners who ask us to fold up the Moonbuggy and put it on the scale. Our vehicles weighs 179lb, that's around 90kg. Then we go to the area of the tournament were we have to carry the vehicle 6ft. Then we stow it away in a cube with 4ft long sides (1.21m). We've only practiced that a couple of times and always needed 8-10 seconds. The guys from Huntsville were faster with 5 seconds. We focus and take a deep breath. We're not aware of anything around us, just of the 'ready, set, GO!'. Everything works surprisingly well and quick. We lift our hands and the time is taken. We're breathless as the umpire announces the time: 6.2 seconds. That's a German Team record. The fastest the German Moonbuggy has ever been folded up was 6.4 seconds!

But we don't have time for cheers, as we're taken to the start where Angela Storey awaits us with a mike and a camera. She asks a few questions about the Moonbuggy which we answer quickly. Ralf keeps finetuning the buggy til the umpire gives the go. We start in the first gear, but our wheels are a bit in overdrive so we lose a tiny bit of time. We fly over the first obstacles and Stefan masters the curves amazingly. We slow down a bit in the Moon crater to avoid sliding off track. The final part is slower, as we're treading uphill and lose speed due to a pile of sand. But we pass the course without penalties, i.e. we don't get off track or take down hay stacks or traffic cones which are placed on the piste. Vermont Hedrick, who's hosting us at his place, cheers with extra fervour and shouts that we should honk, as we're the only team with a horn. So Stefan takes the finishing line honking. Done!

We're out of breath and stay put in our buggy for now. The journalist is straight over to ask us more questions. I'm letting the race pass again in my head and think we could have been faster on one or the other occasion. Stefan is so short of breath he can't properly answer the questions of the journalist. So she comes over to me. But all I can say at the time is that I'm really out of breath. Stefan and I get off the buggy and join our group, who's already waiting for us with some water. An umpire tells us the time: 3:31min. It's a good result for us, as the track records is just over 3min. We're content until someone walks over and tells us we're first place, faster than the Center of Technology team which was first last year. We nearly cry with joy. We all end up in a big gear hug and can't believe it.

Then we're off to the tent, where we – still amazed – talk about the race and all the different questions of our team. The Moonbuggy, which stood the test of the race without hick-ups, is checked once more and no faults are found.

Our pulse is back to normal and so we go and see some of the other teams to get to know them and admire their Moonbuggies. None is like the other and everyone we talk to is really open and very, very friendly. Some of them even chat me up at the Space & Rocket Center and ask whether I wasn't Steffi, and that they saw me on Channel 31 with the weather guy on Easter Sunday. Or that they read the reports I wrote in English and Spanish, or that they saw my picture on the frontpage of NASA. I blush every time and can't believe the traces I'm leaving during my first ever visit to the US.

It's a long and hot day. I'm glad our race was in the morning when it was still nice and cool. Our group goes out and visits the Space & Rocket Park again. We ride a centrifuge, see Darth Vader and cheer on other Moonbuggy teams who we'd made friends with.

The afternoon is spent in the cafeteria where we meet with some other international teams to start a Moonbuggy-Tour Europe. We want to collaborate with a lot of different schools and convince others to consider doing Moonbuggies. This is important, since our constructions could be precursors for a Marsbuggy. The team of Puerto Rico which comprises of many schools is really interested, and so are Canada and India. That means the international teams might be doing a tour and races already next year, where everyone could join and check out the Moonbuggy and the idea behind it.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Registration Day

Stephanie Fleischer
Moonbuggy Team 2010

Huntsville, April 8th, 2010


This morning we get up at 8 am and had a very tasty breakfast, with cereals, fruit, milk, beagles (which you don't have in Germany) Philadelphia, ham and cheese.

At 10.30 we arrive at the Space & Rocket Center, but without our Moonbuggy, because it is still in the Center of Technology. At the big parking lot of the Space & Rocket Center a few schools built up their Moonbuggies.

There is a ig tent for the registration and there we get our number for the moonbuggyrace. It's the lucky 7. Then are looking around when one guy talk to me. „You must be Steffi, nice to meet you. I saw you on TV last Sunday. You did such a great job", he sais. He introduces himself as Richard Smith . He introduce us to give an interview for Education TV of Huntsville City Schools and the Nasa Education Channel. I am so nervous, but the interview proceed good. Then we meet the organisator of the Nasa Great Moonbuggy Race Frank Six. He creates the Moonbuggy Race about 17 year ago. He is very glad to see us and especially Ralf, because Ralf invites and encourages international teams to come to Huntsville and participate in the Moonbuggy Race.

Stefan and me are walk around and looking at the different vehilcles. We meet a lot of international teams, like Romanians, Puerto Recanians, Serbians and a lot of Indians, which we invite to a international meeting tomorrow evening to get to know each other and to exchange our experiences.

After lunch Ralf guide us through the Center and the cours we have to ride on. It is 1,2 kilometers with a lot of curves and obstacles. I hope we will get through without any problems.

Then we visited the museum where we watch a lot of for passed astronauts and engeneers of all over the world.

Then Ralf, Stefan and me drive to the Center of Technology to pick up our Moonbuggy. Then Stefan and I go by Buggy to the Space & Rocket Center. When we arrive the opening Ceremony already started. It was very beautiful because a man is singing the american hymn and Mrs Washington, Hedquarters of NASA, Angela Storey, Press of MSFC and some sponsores of the race for example Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Jacobs Industries, are thanking us to be here and to wish us good luck.

After the ceremony we drive one time through the Moonbuggy parking lot and go home. We have to go to bed early because tomorrow we will ride at about 8 o'clock in the morning and Max, our personal trainer says we have to get up 3 hours earlier before the race starts.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Moonbuggy Speed Record - 50 MPH!

Stephanie (Steffi) Fleischer
Moonbugg Team 2010

Huntsville, April 06th, 2010


Today we start the day with a warming up and a very tasty beagle- breakfast. At eleven o`clock we drive to Hendrick's to fetch our Moonbuggy. The sun was very strong, the thermometer suggest about 25 °C (77 F) and we have to wear our suits. I hope Ralf is right with his thesis, that the blue cotton spaceesuit an the race- shirt will isolate.

Now begins the first ride and for the first time we crack our speed limit. 80,9 km/h (50,3 mph)!

No it can't be true, Let's try it another time. But we do it a second time. It is the same speed. Now I'm so happy the DEKRA GmbH is our silver sponsor. This company is inspecting cars and airplane pieces, also in USA. Maybe without their sponsoring we won't be able to make timelimits like these. I can't believe it. I drove 80 km/h (50 mph) with Stefan in Alabama.

After our litte time of success we startet to train. We drove about 31 km, from the Rainbow Hill till the Space- & Rocketcenter in Huntsville. It's a very hot and long ride, but so I can meet lots of workers of Moonbuggies. So we visited the UAH-college team 2010 and the vice-president of the "von Braun Research Hall", D. John M. Horack.

When we arrive at our last station, the Space- and Rocket Center some pedestrian are showing their interest. One guy for exmple helps his niece to take pictures of important things in Alabama. So this man shoots a foto of us and and the painted figure (a spacemann).

After that Stefan and me drive to the hotel, where we can rest and chat until the rest arrives. They take the Moobuggy to a garage oft the Center of Technology. Then we get something to eat at a Taco Bell.

It's Midnight an we analyse the telemetrie-datas and discuss the other themes. So we go to bed very, very exhausted.


First ride on our Moonbbuggy in the USA

Stephanie (Steffi) Fleischer
Moonbuggy Team 2010

April 05th, 2010


Only four days left until the race begins and our Moonbuggy is still in our bagage.

First I get up at 7 o'clock. Today we gonna make our first training together. I wake up Stefan and Max, which were seleeping like babies. We go out and run in our neighboourhood. After that we strech and have breakfast. Then I call my Grandma in Germany to tell her what happend the last days. She is very excited and cannot beliefe what I experiance here in America. It`s alost eleven o'clock in the morning and we have to go to Ralf's and Yvonne's friends' Kay and Vernon.

At Headrick's garage we have the possibility to assemble our vehicle. We take about six hours to unpack the parts and tools of the Moobuggy.

My flap is still so big, because of the TV- Show yesterday. So I sing along happy with the songs on the radio. At the evning we get already ready. When Vernon, the housekeeper, shows us a very nice viewpoint near his house, while the sun is setting.

After the walk and some grips on our vehicle it's time for our first ride in the USA. We ride down the Rainbow Hill. We did an speedrecord of 57 km/h or 35 mph, in night! I am so frightened, because Stefan has got all the power. But we arrive secure und healthy at Hedrick's. Very tired we drive to our Hotel and go to bed.


Monday, April 5, 2010

First impressions of America

Stephanie (Steffi) Fleischer
Moonbuggy Team 2010

Huntsville/Alabama, 04/04/2010

TV: WAAY, Channel 31:


My first night in Amercia. During the night i can't sleep because i have headache and i think i'm getting a cold. At 8 o'clock in the mornig we meet at the lobby of the hotel and have brekfast together. We eat typical food of America, like beagels, muffins, waffels and orange juce and coffee. After the very sweet breakfast we get together for an briefing. There we discuss our scedule of today.

At 10 am we leave and visit the Spae & Rocket Center. After that we make a fotoshootin. With a lot of teammspirit and good mood we cn take beautifil pictures in the 25 degrees warm sun. Then we visit the Marriot Hotel, where we chill in the swimming- pool, Beause of the hot wheather in Alabama we leave the Hotel and go to the Wal Mart, a very big supermarket, ehere you can get everything you want. From Pharmacy, clothes, shoes, magazines to american food, fruits and soft drinks. There we buy something to drink, energy shots for the race, creams and shampoos and my favourite one, n Comsmopolitan. To stop our hungryness we stop by chercker's, a fast food restaurant. There we buy a lot of burgers and pomes, oh no here they ar called fries, a new vocabulary for me.

At 2 o' clock in the afternoon we meet Terry, our friendly and sympathic driver and friend, who visited the Maple Hill Cementary with us. We visited the grave of Professor Ernst Stuhlinger, also called as the „navigtor of Wernher of Brown" (Zitate of Huntsville Times). Then we drive to the grave Konrad Dammenberg and a lot of other important ingeneers fro Germay who were in the pollo Project. The graves in America are very beautiful, with a lot of flowers or pictures.

After that we drive to several Houses whrere we get to know the house where other famous scientists live, like the House of Wernher of Braun. After a while we drive to Monte Samo, you can call it „ Sauerkrautberg", too, with a lot of buildings of the 50's and 60's. Most of the German ingeneers, who work in Huntsville ave got a house there, On the the way to huntsville city center, we stop at Walter Jacobi's, but he wasn't at home. So we go on with our sightseeing tour and stop the doors an make some pictures with his house. Walter Jacobi was an very important ideas for the landing on the Moon. and he is the first human beeíng who showed people his racket in public. But that is not all. We drive to the Rainbowmountain, where Ralf organized an interview with the Wheaterman of Alabama. We shall be there at 10 pm o'clock.

In the afternoon we drove all together to the city Center, for taking a walk in the nice parc near the Walther of Braun Institute, where we watched a very big picture and a stone of rememberence of the famous scientist.

6 o'clock in the evening we met Terry and his fammily and the Hendricks at an restaurant where we have a very delicious dinner. After the dinner we are on the way to the TV station where a lot of people waiting for us. We all are standing in front of this dark camera, which can sees evrything and records everything you say and do. So there are Minutes left and so nervous. What will he ask, will i find the right wird's to answer the questions? How is my hair? i am so friightened of failing on air in Alabama. But did it pretty well. Ralf answere the questions like a master nd me, i explain a piece of the chassie with an angle limiter.

I AM IN THE AMERICAIN TV IN ALABAMA. After the interview i am very excited and later when we arrive at our hotel was jumping like a four aged girl getting a very big Barbie. When Terry visited us in the Hotel it get worse. I see myself in american tv.I can not stop smiling. I'm so happy. And another fact is that i can't stop talking for a long time. But know I'm going to bed because tomorrow we have to assemble our Moonbuggy and rebuild it.

TV: WAAY, Channel 31:


Back From The Future

written by Ralf Heckel
International Space Education Institute

translated by. Regina BA MA
Doctoral Researcher Spacecraft Habitability Design
Kingston University London

Leipzig, April 2, 2010

fotos night:
fotos day:

It looks futuristic: The NASA Moonbuggy of the German Team 2010. Around midnight, late-night pedestrians in Leipzig were quite intrigued to find themselves facing a low-flying vehicle that left a trace of dazzling light against the pitch-black of the night in its wake. One of the punters remarked: "Did you see that? Seems like they've just come straight out of the film 'Back to the Future'!"

And they're indeed from the future. Stefan Martini (19, Munich), Stephanie Fleischer (19, Unterschleissheim), Max Frank (17, Leipzig) and their Russian colleague Ivan Therekov, joined by the mechanics crew Robert Hempel and Daniel Mueller of the Vocational & Technology Centre of the Chamber of Crafts, will not only participate in the NASA
Moonbuggy Race, April 8-10, 2010 in Huntsville/Alabama. They are also the first official construction team of the Mars500 Rover, a project that will reach out far into the future.

Throughout the previous 11 months, the International Space Education Institute has shared a lot of know how and practice from engineering and craft in 132 workshops. The press conference, held in Leipzig on March 30, 2010, received world-wide attention.

Accompany this unique European team to the US and the NASA construction competition of the up-and-coming engineers against 1088 other students.

fotos night:
fotos day:

Friday, April 2, 2010

NASA Race in Double Seater

Student team of Leipzig institute to compete at Moonbuggy-Race in Huntsville

Leipzig Today, March 31, 2010

The countdown is on: Under the auspices of the Leipzig-based International Space Education Institute (ISEI) a team of students will be competing at the Moonbuggy Race at Huntsville, US. The crew is aiming for a place on the pedestal with their vehicle - called Ganymed - in the competition hosted by NASA.

Stefan Martini, Stephanie Fleischer, Max Frank, Robert Hempel, as well as Daniel Mueller and many others have spent months building the pedalled buggy. Also students from Russia and Hungary lent a hand, supported by experts of Leipzig firms such as Doerffer Sandstrahltechnik GmbH or Dreherei Guenther Jacob. "We didn't go to sleep until the early hours yesterday just to put the finishing touches on the vehicle," says Daniel, 18, who is currently doing an apprenticeship at the Vocational & Technology Centre of the Chamber of Crafts. He is, like 16 year old Robert, a mechanic in Ganymed's crew.

Despite the short night there was not an ounce of tiredness when the creators presented the 93kg two seater yesterday. Quizzed on details of the quad-cycle buggy - which according to NASA requirements cannot exceed 1.2 by 2.5 meters - Stefan explains with great enthusiasm: "Double chain drive, 28 gears, GPS datalogger, mounted camera". The 19 year old grammar school student from Munich has regularly been spending his holidays at SEI which is registered as association. Stefan has been on the SEI team since the original model of Ganymed took part in the Moonbuggy Race. 19 year old Stephanie from Bavarian Unterschleissheim, however, only joined the institute in 2009 and will be kicking the pedals for the first time in Huntsville: "I hope the construction and my fitness will be up to scratch". The test drives were not always perfect. The race in Huntsville, where NASA used to build their moon rockets, will be a first also for Max who is studying at the local sports grammar.

Institute director Ralf Heckel has double-checked the line-up: "109 participants from all over the world have registered and will be maneuvering their buggies through a course studded with obstacles". The off-road piste is 1.2km long, there are penalties for mistakes. "I have total faith in our material and crew. If they make the same effort in the race as during construction, then we'll be up for a better score than last year's 6th position".

"We'll give everything, and we really want a place on the pedestal," says buggy pilot Stefan. "We also owe that to our sponsors and supporting companies." This weekend, the crew is off to Huntsville. They'll train and further optimize Ganymed. The race will take place on April 9 and 10. "We cross our fingers vigorously," assures Sigrid Zimmermann, managing director of the Chamber of Crafts, Leipzig, who is actively involved as project partner.

written by Mario Beck, Leipziger Volkszeitung

translated by Regina Peldszus BA MA, Doctoral Researcher Spacecraft Habitability Design