The space shuttle program may be drawing to a close, but a little bit to the south of the Kennedy Space Center, some young Puerto Ricans could represent our greatest hope for the future of the space program.
Teams from the island territory swept the top honors in NASA's 18th annual Great Moonbuggy Race held over the weekend. Teams representing Teodoro Aguilar Mora Vocational High School of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, took the top two places in the high school division, and the University of Puerto Rico in Humacao won its second straight title in the college division.
NASA describes the competition as challenging "students around the world to build and race lightweight, human-powered buggies--demonstrating the same innovation and can-do spirit that put the first Apollo-era lunar rover on the moon four decades ago." Check out this footage:
The Puerto Rico delegation brought its A-game to the space engineering geekfest held at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., besting more than 70 teams from 22 states, Canada, Germany, India, and Russia. Teodoro Aguilar Mora racer Isadora Matta also added glory to injury, receiving an award of special recognition for emerging bloody and bruised from one of the weekend's more spectacular crashes.
Put simply, the Puerto Ricans are nuts for moonbuggy racing--the University of Puerto Rico in Humacao is the only school to enter a buggy in every race since the beginning in 1994.
High school teams from Jupiter, Fla., and college entries from the University of Utah, Ohio State, and the University of Alabama-Huntsville were also among the top finishers. Best moonbuggy design awards went to Jupiter High School and Rhode Island School of Design, which documented some of the process of creating the vehicle online--as far as I can tell, the custom paint job seems to be a critical element.