Friday, May 17, 2013

MoonBuggy Madness

First; a quick note of importance:
Read all about what's happening with our young hero, Issy at the link below! She's made a lot of progress, and also some setbacks. The more each of you shares her story, the better her chances of coming home to an improved situation!

Hi kidz, did ya miss me? It's been a very busy Spring time up here in the Hundred Acre Woods By The Inland Sea. But Old Man Winter has finally let go his icy grip, and some flowers are in bloom. Our daffodils are just wilting, and our tulips are just starting to open up to kiss the gentle warmth of the Sun. Even better, Morels are starting to pop their tasty, pointy, little heads out of the ground.

So spring has sprung, and the grass has greened. But let me take back just a little ways to the last NASA Social in which I participated. This was in the deep South of Huntsville, Alabama, which is home to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (which hosts Space Camp) and also home to the Marshall Space Flight Center for NASA. So you could say that Huntsville is a focal point of the past, present and future of manned space exploration. This area practically eats and breathes space exploration! 

Yes, there is a mock, full size, Shuttle Orbiter atop those rockets! Every year, Space Camp also hosts a MoonBuggy Race competition for High School and Collegiate teams from across the U.S., and the world! This year was the 20th annual race, and as part of the NASA social, I was embedded with a High School team from Reno NV and a collegiate team from India! 
The idea is that each team has to design, build and test a human powered vehicle that can cross a variety of simulated Lunar surfaces and compete for the best time. The real kicker is that each team must bring their craft to the starting line in a 4ft x 4ft x 4ft box, (just like the original Lunar Rover) remove the MoonBuggy from the box, and assemble it before they can ride! At the Finish line, then they must disassemble the buggy, and stow it back in the box! 

That pic just above is The Accurate Institute of Management and Technology, from India. Yes, this was my collegiate team, and they were awesome! They were the smallest team in the field, with only four members, but they rocked the course! when I stopped by to introduce myself, they were quite welcoming and included me immediately! To say that I now have four new friends that live half way across the globe is wonderfully true. And isn't that really the best part of any NASA Social? Happily their English is much better than my Hindi (considering that I don't speak Hindi at all), and we communicated well with each other. 

Like every other team, this team had to conquer last minute break downs and repair jobs, perform more testing, and most importantly race the course in as little time as possible. At one point they couldn't decide where to put the "antenna" on the buggy. So, I looked down at their various parts strewn about the ground and spied a small diameter pipe that was clamped off at one end. I picked up the pipe, and jammed it in back of the seat upright, then placed the antenna (a small parasol) in the pipe. Voila!! They all looked at what I had done, and we all started laughing and giving each other High Fives! I think that's when they adopted me as a mascot?

I am delighted that I could spend time with this particular group of young folks, as their dedication and perseverance in the midst of chaos was truly inspirational. Plus, you could tell that they were enjoying themselves, and the MoonBuggy Race experience in general. I have kept in contact with each of them, and consider them to be my friends. Who knows? Maybe one day I can go over there and visit them, and see their beautiful country? And if they are ever in the States, then the door up here in The Hundred Acre Woods By The Inland Sea is always open.

Oh, and as for the wonderful High School team from Reno? I'm glad you asked, they will be featured in my next post! So stay tuned...