Rover Challenge Course Proves Much Tougher than Expected for Racers

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala.  (WHNT) - It was a day of flat tires, smashed up metal, and total breakdown at the US Space and Rocket Center.

That was the first day of a stiff competition for worldwide bragging rights.

It's now known as the Human Exploration Rover Challenge, formerly known as the Moonbuggy Race.

It was a painful morning for young engineers who prepared for a tough obstacle course, but was shocked by just how tough it was.

"This is my second year riding the course," said Cevin Rainds, a senior at Middle Tennessee State University. "I will say it's much more challenging than last year. I don't remember hurting this bad."

Her partner, Joshua Calvin, also a student at MTSU concurred.

"My legs are burning right now. I'm out of breath. But it's all good.. It means I worked hard."

Teams from all over the world are in the Rocket City vying for trophies, cash and bragging rights.

USSRC Spokeswoman Pat Ammons described the half-mile course. "They start here underneath the shuttle and the very first obastacle they come to is a big bed full of boulders."

All vehicles are homemade. Each six member team chooses two course drivers, one male, one female, to navigate through 15 obstacles.

It all focuses on the design and construction of the vehicle and its ability to perform in various environments.

"Toward the end, we kinda lost our speed going up the hill and we got stuck on that top obstacle and that really killed our speed," said Nick Potter, a student at Virginia State High School near Reno, Nevada. "So we had to try to make up for it by going as fast as we could down the hill. but we didn't quite get past the hill."

Whoever gets through the fastest wins.

The competition wraps up Saturday.

NASA changed the name from "Moonbuggy Race" to "Rover Challenge" to emphasize the agency's commitment to exploring other planets, asteroids, comets and moons.

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