Five students of Mukesh Patel School of Technology Management and Engineering in Vile Parle are gearing up to participate in the 18th Annual Great Moonbuggy Race in the US Space and Rocket Centre.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) organises the competition every year to find innovative and efficient moonbuggy -- a vehicle that can run on the surface of the moon. The two-seater vehicle will be judged on the speed and the design as per the criteria set by NASA.
“We have researched the surface of the moon and the atmosphere there to ensure that the vehicle runs on a similar surface provided by NASA,” said Balagopal Padmakumar, one of the participants.
The students have set up a workshop in Ujjain and go there every weekend. “We have a very unique design and are certain that we will win the design competition,” said Paril Chheda, another participant.
Interestingly, a team from the same college had secured the 23rd position amongst 96 international teams last year.
Two participants -- Madhur Sehgal and Chintan Thakkar – had participated last year as well. “Last year, we hardly had three months to make the moonbuggy. This time we started working on it early,” said Sehgal.
The participants will have to ride their vehicles on a 1.7-km long mock surface resembling the moon’s. One of the criteria of the competition is to have at least one female driver. “I practiced paddling the moonbuggy last weekend and I found that the speed was very good. We may win the race,” said an excited Unnati Thappar, one of the drivers.
Usually, the students have to bear the cost (around Rs7 lakh) of manufacturing and shipping the moonbuggy as well as their travel expenses. However, this year, the team is being sponsored by Air India and DHL Logistics.