HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- NASA's 20th annual Great Moonbuggy Race kicked off Friday in Huntsville with students from all over the world ready to keep the wheels of space exploration turning.
More than 600 high school, college and university students, representing 23 states and Puerto Rico, Canada, India, Germany, Mexico and Russia are participating in this year's race, navigating their innovative, two-person buggies around a half-mile-long course that simulates the craggy surface of the moon. Organizers say the international inclusion is a big factor in the event's continued success.
"Once we opened it to international teams it just opened the flood gates," says race project manager Diedra Williams. "We have so many international partners, especially ISS partners that are interested in the race."
Simply getting through a sand trap is an accomplishment for race teams but organizers say one of the most rewarding aspects of the event is seeing the spark of imagination, dedication and drive in the young participants.
"The kids are so excited to be here. They are exhausted when they get here, some of them drive all night and then they build their buggies in the parking lot all night long so they're ready to race the next day. So it really is an exciting event, they come with parents family and teachers and it really is a good family oriented activity."
NASA will stream the entire two-day event, including the closing awards ceremony, live via UStream.