HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — More than 80 student teams at high schools, colleges and universities around the globe are gearing up for NASA’s 16th annual Great Moonbuggy Race. Now NASA’s helping them share their excitement with friends, family and space enthusiasts online — via Facebook, Twitter and a brand-new “Buggy Blog” featuring contributions by 2009 racers.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., which organizes the race each year, launched all three social media activities in February to help spread the word about the event, which will be held April 3-4 at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. More than 500 students from high schools, colleges and universities in 21 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, Germany, India, Mexico and Romania have signed up to take part in the race this year.

Facebook users can go to the site, look up “Moonbuggy Race” and request “Friend” status to track race preparations, interact with NASA personnel and student teams, and learn more about NASA’s original, Apollo-era lunar rovers and the legacy of engineering innovation they have spawned since their use on the moon in the early 1970s.

Cellphone and computer users can sign up for Twitter race updates as well, by visiting:

NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race blog will offer more in-depth pre-race coverage, photos and progress reports from race teams. Visit:

On race days, NASA will continue to provide race news via Facebook, as well as up-to-the-minute course-completion times via Twitter as each student team crosses the finish line — helping racers’ classmates, families and friends root for them as they vie for the top trophies.

“As the Great Moonbuggy Race grows each year, we strive to share the excitement as far and wide as possible, making it easier than ever for people who can’t be here with their teams to track the event in real time,” said Tammy Rowan, manager of Marshall’s Academic Affairs Office, which manages the event for NASA. “It’s our hope, too, that our online coverage will inspire more schools to take part in years to come.”

Eight college teams participated in the first Great Moonbuggy Race in Huntsville in 1994. That initial race commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. The event was expanded in 1996 to include high school teams, and participation has swelled each year since.

NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race is one of dozens of educational programs and initiatives led by the Marshall Center each year to help inspire and engage America’s next generation of scientists, engineers and explorers — those who will carry on the nation’s mission of exploration, to the moon and onward into the solar system.

For more information, visit:

A comprehensive fact sheet about the race, plus photos and news about past winners, is available at:

For information about other NASA education programs, visit: