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SALT LAKE CITY -- A team of University of Utah students raced across the surface of the moon Friday, without ever leaving Earth.
The 16th annual Great Moonbuggy Race is going on in Huntsville, Ala., at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, and the team of Utes is testing their skills against students from across the nation and several other countries.
The Great Moonbuggy Race is a bone rattling, head jarring blitz across a simulated lunar surface.
"We weren't involved last year, so this year we had to start from scratch and engineer the suspension, the gearing and everything. It's a great educational opportunity, plus we get to compete with other universities. So, it's a lot of fun," said student John Steadman.
Students design vehicles that tackle a series of engineering problems similar to problems faced by the original Moonbuggy team in the early 1970s.
"We chose a triangle frame; first, because it's very strong, and second, to drop a little weight from last year's team," explained U student Kelsey Hansen.
The teams actually assemble their moonbuggies at the starting line and get timed on. Each human-powered moonbuggy carries two students over rough-and-tumble terrain.
"We go through a course that consists of gravel ridges and sand and craters, and we're timed on that. It's about .7 miles," Hansen said.
The moonbuggy entries are expected to be of "proof-of-concept" and engineering test models rather than final-production models. Each student team of six builds its own buggy; the drivers are also builders. The teams then take two runs of the terrain course, and the shortest course time is added to the assembly time for the final total time.
The University of Utah has participated three years and raced Friday morning. "We had a flat tire part way through the course. We didn't make it all the way through, but we got some new tubes and we'll be ready to go tomorrow," Steadman said.
If you want to follow the race and find out how the Utes do tomorrow, CLICK HERE.