Penn State’s on a mission: Land a lion on the Moon

    Penn State is on a Moon mission. And no, that’s not an Onion headline.

    PSU is making strides into the aerospace industry and working towards making Happy Valley’s home in Center County its new hub.

    According to, a team of researchers and students from PSU’s Applied Research Laboratory are one of 25 teams vying for a multi-million dollar prize purse awarded to the first privately funded group to safely land a robot on the surface of the Moon. After landing, the robot must also travel 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send video, images and data back to the Earth.

    It sounds easy enough. NASA has been doing it for years, right? But of course, the privatization of the aerospace industry is much more complex than that.

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    The X Prize Foundation, a non-profit that creates and manages “large-scale, high-profile, incentivized prize competitions that stimulate investment in research and development,” sponsors the Google Lunar X Prize contest and offers a total of $30 million in prize money available to the teams that complete the mission.

    Space Systems Engineer Michael Paul, recently named Director of Space Systems Initiatives at the university, leads Penn State’s team. Before landing in Happy Valley Paul spent years working at NASA and more recently Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. His team consists of about 40 students, all of which come from a variety of different backgrounds, majoring not just in space research and engineering, but in business as well.

    The team is working on a craft they call the Lunar Lion. According to their team page it will serve as “spacecraft, lander and rover,” which adheres to their philosophy of simplicity.

    The teams have until the end of 2015 to get to the Moon and meet all of the contest’s objectives.

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