Thursday, February 28, 2008

He's a Lumberjack (and he's okay)

From Stephen A. Austin University, and "The Pine Log," here's a behind the scenes look at the humble origins and bragging rights attached to NASA's Chariot.

There's a lesson here, Amigas y Amigos.

Lumberjacks work for NASA designing lunar rovers for travel on the moon. The Pine Log

Rusk, TX - Two SFA alumni brothers, Jason and Jefferson Jackson, recently completed designing two lunar rovers that will be used to construct a space station on the moon.

The Jacksons work at Racefab, Inc., a family-owned business in Rusk, Texas, that builds custom vehicles and race cars.

The company was opened in 1991 by their father, Joel Jackson. He had been racing cars since the 1970s, and worked previously in California building racing vehicles. Jackson also developed the prototype for the Dodge Viper.

Both of his sons followed in his footsteps by joining the family business and building custom cars. "We are helping our dad out with the business and also getting more involved in our work," Jefferson Jackson said.

Racefab, Inc. has built more than 400 custom automobiles since 1991.They have built custom cars, race cars and off-road vehicles as well as several cars featured in movies. Two of the vehicles they designed were used in the movie "Driven," with Sylvester Stallone.

NASA came across Racefab's off-road racing website when they were searching the Internet for companies to design the lunar rover. NASA wanted a vehicle that would be suitable for off-road terrain, such as the moon.

There was a previous rover developed for testing, which Racefab redesigned; however, they found flaws in the original designs and redesigned the rover.

NASA will use the Jacksons' lunar rover in 2020 in the Orion Moon Exploration Project. Phase One of this exploration project will allow astronauts to travel to the moon for extended amounts of time. Phase Two of the project involves possible travel to Mars.

"This lunar rover will be used to help construct a space station and pave out roads on the moon," Jackson said. NASA chose Racefab out of 28 other companies nationwide to build the rovers.

"We assembled the rover the same way we build our race cars," Jackson said. Racefab, Inc. was able to use the techniques for building custom cars in the lunar rover project, which was another reason NASA was interested in the company.

The rover will be tested this summer in the Arizona desert since the terrain there is similar to that of the moon.

"The rover is a 12-wheel vehicle with unique technical features," Jackson explained. The rover was made from a steel tube frame, along with steel plates and tubes. The lunar rover also features 12 wheel-drive, aluminum paneling on the outside and six drive modules.

Jason Jackson graduated from SFA in 2004 with a degree in art, and Jefferson Jackson graduated in 2006 with a degree in physics and mathematics. Racefab is run and owned by the Jackson family, which includes Marty, Joel, Jason and Jefferson Jackson.

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