NASA Moonbuggy Race: »The air is out …!«
... sounds dramatic, but in this case it means progress, because at the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge 2016 in America, the moonbuggies were only allowed to roll through the competition on self-designed, non-pneumatic wheels. For each of the 74 participating international teams, this meant tinkering, testing and training.
But let's take a brief look back: on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Apollo 11 space mission, the first moon buggy race took place in 1994 and has been held on the grounds of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama since 1996. Similar to the way engineers developed the first Lunar Roving Vehicle for the Apollo 15 mission in 1971, today young, talented students construct their own moon vehicles in teams and try to conquer the competition course, a kind of simulated lunar landscape with hills, craters and other obstacles, with their innovative ideas. If the material is right, the set-up on site works and the two pilots have enough muscle power to drive fast, then victory is within reach.
The international teams of the ISEI (International Space Education Institute) from Leipzig under the direction of Ralf Heckel have already won first places, world championship titles so to speak, several times in the last 10 years. 1st Mould supported the Leipzig institute as early as 2013 with the development and production of a high-quality plastic part especially for the gearbox. In the same year, "our" moon buggy could be admired at the International Space Exhibition in Moscow and even made a guest appearance in the US movie "Space Kids - Adventures at Space Camp".
Since then, Managing Director Max Stauß has been in close contact with Ralf Heckel and was immediately on fire when it came to designing a wheel made of plastic for the race that could manage without air in the tyres. 1st Mould accepted the challenge and built moulds for the wheel segments for a 2-component injection moulding, a combination of polycarbonate and TPE. Time flew by and the competition date in April was just around the corner. Employee Steve did 1st Mould, also known as the "injection moulding fire brigade", all honour and brought the first urgently needed parts to Leipzig on Good Friday night. And the second optimised load, still warm from the machine, was also delivered by Christian a week later to its destination in time for departure.
Unfortunately, it was not quite enough for the winner's podium this year. But as Henry Ford said, "Failure is merely the opportunity to start again smarter." That's why ISEI and its young engineers will be back again next year to drive progress with new ideas. Until then, Ralf Heckel and this year's participants will each go on a promotional tour around the globe with a moon buggy kit - as ambassadors for the further development of space travel. Because as Apollo engineer Al Reisz, a fan of the ISEI teams and a long-time companion, said just the other day: "We need space travel and the opportunity to develop elsewhere...".
The team presented him, a pioneer of space travel, with two autographed wheel segments during a visit to Huntsville Hospital. Sadly, he embarked on his final journey in July this year. We wish him a safe flight to the stars.