HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Braving fierce competition and a space-age terrain Friday, the Huntsville Center for Technology of Huntsville, Ala., was named champion of the high school division of NASA’s 14th annual Great Moonbuggy Race, sponsored by Northrop Grumman Corp.

Finishing with the fastest time in a field of 25 high school teams from across the United States and as far away as Germany, the winning team raced its original moonbuggy design at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, the annual host of the race in Huntsville.

The Great Moonbuggy Race is inspired by the original lunar rover of engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, whose creations rumbled across the moon during the last three Apollo missions in the early 1970s. The NASA engineers had to design and build a compact, light, flexible and durable vehicle to carry astronauts on the lunar surface.

Students faced some of the same challenges while preparing for their race across a simulated lunar surface, complete with “craters,” rocks, “lava” ridges, inclines and “lunar” soil.

The Huntsville Center for Technology team finished the course in 3 minutes and 34 seconds, 10 seconds ahead of the second-place team, which also hailed from the Huntsville Center for Technology. Lafayette County C-1 in Higginsville, Mo., finished in third place and also won a special development design award.

The first-place Huntsville Center for Technology team received a trophy depicting NASA’s original lunar rover vehicle. The winning team also gets free tuition to the week-long Space Camp program in Huntsville. The second- and third-place teams received plaques honoring their achievement, and individual members of all three teams were given medals.

The award for “Best Design” went to the German Space Education Institute in Leipzig, Germany for best solving the engineering problem of navigating the lunar surface. Erie High School in Erie, Kan., was awarded “Most Unique Buggy” in the high school division, along with a safety systems award.

A special “Pits Crew Award” for ingenuity and persistence in overcoming problems during the race was won by Lima Senior High School in Lima, Ohio.

The German Space Education Institute earned the “Rookie Award” for posting the fastest first-year time in the competition. The “Most Improved” award went to returning race competitors from Murray High School in Murray, Ky.

“For these teams, the challenge began long before race day,” said Frank Six, university affairs officer with the Marshall Center’s Academic Affairs Office. “For months, they’ve been building and fine-tuning their vehicles, along with their skills in math, science and engineering. With the education and experience they’ve gained through this competition, they may be inspired to someday participate in other NASA ventures, such as returning to the moon, reaching Mars and exploring destinations beyond.”

“When it comes to learning, there’s no substitute for real-world challenges,” said Doug Young, vice president of space exploration systems for Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Systems sector. “Through this event, the students were able to take what they’ve learned in the classroom, add their fresh ideas and come up with new solutions to classic engineering problems. How do you make something better, stronger and best able to accomplish your desired task? It’s not easy, but these students rose to the challenge.”

Teams that will compete in the college division race Saturday spent time Friday tightening up their buggies and cheering on the high school racers. The field of more than 20 college and university teams begins racing Saturday at 8 a.m. CDT.

Other high school participants racing this year, listed alphabetically by state, included the Fairhope High School in Fairhope, Ala.; Vestavia Hills High School in Vestavia Hills, Ala.; Hanceville High School in Hanceville, Ala.; Williston High School in Bronson, Fla.; Pana Senior High School in Pana, Ill.; Caldwell County High School in Princeton, Ky.; Simon Kenton High School in Independence, Ky.; Carlisle County High School in Bardwell, Ky.; Calloway County High School in Murray, Ky.; C. E. Byrd High School in Shreveport, La.; Gadsden High School in Las Cruces, N.M.; and Pinewood Preparatory School in Summerville, S.C.

The first Great Moonbuggy Race was run in 1994, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. Eight college teams participated that first year, and in 1996 the race was expanded to include high school teams.

Many volunteers from both the Marshall Center and the space industry ensure the success of the event. This is the second year Northrop Grumman Corp. has sponsored the Great Moonbuggy Race. Other contributors include the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA); ATK Launch Systems, Inc.; CBS affiliate WHNT Channel 19 of Huntsville; Jacobs Technology; Morgan Research Corp.; Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC); the Tennessee Valley Chapter of the System Safety Society Inc.; and the United Space Alliance, LLC.

For photos of the top-finishing high school teams, visit the Marshall Newsroom at:

For more event details, race rules, and information on the course, visit:

For more information about NASA and the Vision for Space Exploration, visit: