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NASA Moonbuggy Race - NASA Moonbuggy Race 2011

Ralf Heckel, International Space Education Institute

If, in future, we want to settle the moon and the planets as we live in orbit right now, we’ll need to be willing to swap nationality against an ‘earth-citizenship’. Exploring space is the task of humanity as a whole. It may be pioneered by several nations at first, but at the end of the day we’ll all have to be prepared to work together smoothly to discover the new. Each captain needs a crew. Great achievements are therefore only possible in a team, with impeccable excellence and consideration for safety, above all. These are the core values of NASA and the house rules of ISS. And I love them – thank you, America!

Last year, 2010, we scored the best time in the Moonbuggy Race. For a long while afterwards we didn’t really realize what that meant. The success was such a surprise that each of our team was unprepared. Afterall, it’s only 1 second of a difference – not more, and not less. But it was pivotal. And the Moonbuggy by the team of Fajardo Vocational High School (PR) and ours couldn’t be more different. That single second showed that many ways lead to success. Thank you, Puerto Rico, fort his experience!


speedrecord speedrecord

An absolutely surprice was the speedrecord of our pilots. For a short time at the training in Huntsville, our buggy drove a speed of 50 mph (80 km/h). Thank you Stefan and Steffi for this great power.

We also believe that many of your noticed that, for the first time, a foreign team took the title. Was that a little Sputnik-style shock? Then again, why not? We never understood the Moonbuggy Race as one-off event, but as a never-ending journey. Still, we were conscious of having roused your enthusiasm. Many US team leaders thanked us, and that made us proud. We know that there is only one goal for each of you again: To be better. All of the team members from Germany are keeping this in mind – they have great respect for you.

Since our first international participation 5 years ago, it’s become increasingly vital for us also to inspire other nations for the Moonbuggy Race. The Moonbuggy has a great future if it goes multinational. Nothing is as self-evident as to do this in Russia, Europe’s strongest space nation. Our nations, US – Germany – Russia, have a common historic core. This is where space exploration began. German engineers were also working in Russia on the rockets for Sputnik and Gagarin – like the ‘Von Braun-Team’ in Huntsville. That’s why we drove ten thousands of kilometers through Russia with the students and their Moonbuggy. There were already two races in Russia and a number of talks. The word ‘Moonbuggy’ – or subtly adapted, ‘lunar buggy’ – is now part of the Russian vocabulary. Now we’re having a little break from the Russian roads, as they couldn’t be worse on the Moon. Man and machine did their best during this east-bound roadshow – they’re well prepared now!



It is therefore with great pleasure that I’m presenting two Russian teams in 2011, this special year. One team is driving under our support. Another team initially trained with us, but now want to be in competition. We’re really excited.



A big respect goes to the first team from Africa. 3 years long we supported a school on Kenya and showed them a Moonbuggy. 1200 students in Kilifi near Mombasa ware excited. But there is no electrical power, no water and no toilett and a very slow internet. First we built a restroom for all. So it is a great surprice to know a team from Ethopia at the Moonbuggy Race. Welcome Africa!



Why there is so much enthusiasm this year, I’d like to explain too. Just like in America, Russia celebrates 40 Years of the Lunar Rover. ‘Lunokhod 1’ was an automatic rover that landed on the Moon even a bit earlier than LRV. It took 20,000 photographs, 200 films and covered around 7 miles on the Moon. We visited Lunokhod with our Moonbuggy and we can bring along its chief designer and telemetry pilot. In addition to that, April 12th, only 10 days after the Moonbuggy Race 2011 will be a double anniversary again: That’s 30 years Space Shuttle and 50 years Gagarin’s flight. Both are firsts and ground-breaking achievements. They’re based on excellence, integrity and team spirit. I’m convinced this is what you’ll all be bringing to the race.


Give your best!





Russian Team TV:

German Team TV:
Moonbuggy preparations in photos:


translated by Regina Peldszus, space hability designerin, Kingston University London


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