Douglas Adams, the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, was right. The meaning of life is 42. At least, that’s the story the defending champions of solar car racing are telling and they’re sticking to it. Since 1993, students at the University of Missouri-Rolla have built seven solar-powered cars, each one emblazoned with the sacred number 42.
"Some of the members of the first solar car team at UMR had read Adams’ book, and they decided 42 was the perfect number because it’s the answer to everything," says Stephanie Maiden, the team’s current president.
So far, UMR team members have had the right answers when it comes to competing against other university-based solar car teams. No. 42 has been on two UMR cars that won the American Solar Car Challenge and on another vehicle that placed second.
UMR will test its latest No. 42 car, officially named "Solar Miner V," May 16-20 at the Formula Sun Grand Prix qualifying competition in Topeka, Kan.
This summer, the UMR team will race from Austin, Texas, to Calgary, Alberta, in the North American Solar Challenge from July 17-27.
"We hope 42 continues to be our lucky number, but we don’t plan on needing any hitchhiking guides during the race," says Maiden, a senior in chemistry and biological sciences from Hannibal, Mo.