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Moon and Saturn

April 25, 2013

NASCAR fans will have their eyes on Richmond, Virginia, this weekend as their favorite drivers zip around the track at speeds that can top 200 miles an hour.

Another race is also taking place this weekend, with top speeds of just a few miles per hour - a moonbuggy race. About a hundred teams of high school and college students will be scooting around a course that simulates the lunar landscape in Huntsville, Alabama.

Teams design their own moonbuggies. Like the real moon buggies that carried Apollo astronauts, they must fold up to fit inside a small container. When they unfold, they must snap into place quickly and easily. They’re pedaled by the racers, but they must carry simulated batteries, motors, and other real rover equipment. And they must be sturdy enough to stand up to the craters, gravel pits, and other simulated lunar features on the half-mile course.

And perhaps someday in the far-distant future, we’ll see high-speed moonbuggy races somewhere else: on the surface of the Moon.

And when the racers finish their day’s work, they can take a look at their target. The full Moon is in good view tonight, with a “full” companion nearby: the planet Saturn. Saturn will line up opposite the Sun on Sunday, so like the full Moon, it shines at its brightest. It looks like a bright star to the upper left of the Moon as they rise this evening.

More about Saturn tomorrow.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013

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