Nearly 100 high school and college teams from across the globe will compete Friday, April 12 and Saturday, April 13 during the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Participating teams are from 24 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and a record number of international competitors from different countries, including Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Egypt, Germany, India, Mexico, Morocco and Peru.
NASA astronaut Sunita “Suni” Williams will attend the event Saturday, where she will be part of the NASA TV broadcast in the morning and will talk with students during the day. She will be available to speak to the media as well.
A two-time NASA spaceflight veteran, Williams was a flight engineer during International Space Station Expedition 14/15 from December 2006 to June 2007 and again during Expedition 32/33 from July to November 2012. She spent a total of 322 days in space and now ranks sixth on the all-time U.S. endurance list and second all-time for a female astronaut. She is currently training for the first post-certification mission of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft – the second crewed flight for that vehicle – and her third International Space Station mission.
Constantly Evolving Event
NASA redesigned the event in 2018 to better reflect modern planetary exploration challenges. New guidelines task students to design human-powered rovers — each powered by two student drivers, one male, one female — through a half-mile course featuring 14 daunting obstacles and five technical tasks, such as collecting samples, taking photos and planting a flag. With just six minutes of “virtual” oxygen per rover, teams must decide which tasks and hurdles to attempt before the clock expires.
Teams in the high school and college categories vie to be among the top three finishers in their divisions, and to win awards from NASA and corporate sponsors, including best vehicle design and best rookie team.
The competition, managed by Marshall’s Office of STEM Engagement and sponsored by NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate in Washington, is intended to inspire the next generation of STEM explorers skilled in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. The event was launched in 1994 as the NASA Great Moonbuggy Race to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing and expanded in 1996 to include high school teams. It evolved again in 2014 into the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge. Since its inception, more than 12,000 students have participated. To learn more, visit:
Wes is a two time Space Camp graduate and space enthusiast with a love of North Alabama. When he isn't busy being a dad he enjoys travel, volunteering and working his life away. All comments are my own.