Company plans to grow participation, prizes for annual engineering competition that teaches high school, college teams the pitfalls of driving on the ‘moon’

Northrop Grumman Corporation has signed a three-year sponsorship agreement with the U.S. Space & Rocket Center(r) (USSRC) here to become the major sponsor for NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race, now in its 13th year.

The agreement, worth $270,000, helps ensure that NASA Marshall Space Flight Center’s annual vehicle design and race competition will continue to attract and challenge the best student engineering teams from around the world.

Sixty college and high school teams from the U.S. and Puerto Rico are entered in this year’s competition, which will be held April 7-8 on the grounds of the USSRC. Northrop Grumman’s sponsorship agreement begins with the 2006 race.

“This competition provides the perfect venue for launching careers in math, science and engineering,” said Art Stephenson, former director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center who now serves as the sector vice president for Northrop Grumman’s Space Exploration Systems organization. “It allows students to demonstrate creative, real-time problem-solving skills in a fun but technically challenging environment, the same type of skills the nation will need to sustain a successful human space exploration program.”

It’s not inconceivable, he added, that an entrant in this year’s race could one day be driving an exploration vehicle for NASA on the surface of the moon or even Mars.

“We couldn’t be more excited about Northrop Grumman’s sponsorship of the Moonbuggy Race,” said Larry Capps, USSRC chief executive officer. “With their involvement, we expect to take a great learning tool and make it even better. Ultimately, we hope the race will inspire the next generation of engineers, mathematicians and explorers.”

“This sponsorship provides a perfect complement to other programs that Northrop Grumman supports in Huntsville to promote math, science and engineering education,” said Dan Montgomery, the company’s corporate lead executive for Huntsville. “Our employees take great pride in being part of community activities that help ensure the nation’s continued leadership in science and technology.”

Teams of students entered in the Great Moonbuggy Race are required to design, build and race a vehicle that addresses a series of engineering problems similar to problems faced by the builders of NASA’s original lunar rover. Each moonbuggy must be a human-powered, “proof of concept” vehicle built by teams of six students. There are no restrictions on materials or cost, but the vehicle, when stowed, must fit into a volume measuring 4-ft. x 4-ft. x 4-ft.

The competition includes high school and college divisions. It consists of carrying the unassembled moonbuggy to the start line, assembling it and then racing it around a half-mile simulated lunar terrain course that includes “craters”, rocks, “lava” ridges, inclines and “lunar” soil. During the “driving” portion of the competition, the vehicle must carry at least two passengers: one male, one female. The team in each division with the lowest overall assembly/race time wins.

“We’re looking forward to building on what has become a great race tradition for NASA, Huntsville and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center,” said Northrop Grumman’s Alan Ladwig, a business development manager who is leading the company’s efforts to raise the race’s visibility, and increase the size of its entry list and winners’ purse for 2007.

“If our hunch is right, the underlying appeal of this event for today’s youth coupled with the glamour of space exploration could one day have NASCAR looking in its rearview mirror,” adds Ladwig.

Additional information about race entry requirements, vehicle specifications and competition rules and can be found at

Established in 1965 by the State of Alabama, empowered by the U.S. Congress and in cooperation with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center is one of the nation’s premiere hands-on space science museums, fostering national and international educational outreach programs through its world-renowned SPACE CAMP(r) and AVIATION CHALLENGE(r) programs. Located in Huntsville, Alabama, birthplace of America’s manned space flight program, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center remains Alabama’s top tourist attraction, welcoming approximately 400,000 visitors each year.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a global defense company headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif. It provides technologically advanced, innovative products, services and solutions in systems integration, defense electronics, information technology, advanced aircraft, shipbuilding and space technology. With approximately 125,000 employees and operations in all 50 states and 25 countries, Northrop Grumman serves U.S. and international military, government and commercial customers.

CONTACT: Brooks McKinney, APR
Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems
(310) 331-6610 office
(310) 864-3785 cell

Al Whitaker
US Space & Rocket Center
(256) 721-7160 office
(256) 651-1450 cell