The Penn state lunar lion: A university mission to explore the moon

Michael V. Paul, David B. Spencer, Sara E. Lego, John P. Muncks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The Penn State Lunar Lion Team plans to send a robotic explorer to the surface of the Moon and, by applying 30 years of technological advancements, win the Google Lunar X Prize. The Google Lunar X Prize aims to showcase the ability of the growing private space industry by having teams pursue the goal of becoming the first private entity to land a spacecraft on another body in the solar system. Through the Team's pursuit of this Prize, Penn State will establish itself as a leader in space exploration. The Lunar Lion Team will win this Prize through the collaboration of faculty and students from multiple disciplines, and the engineering and technical staff at the Penn State Applied Research Lab, as well as strategic collaborations with industry partners. The diversity of technical disciplines required to build a system that can land on the Moon can be found at Penn State. This multidisciplinary project will be not only a means for bringing together personnel from around the University, but also a way to attract faculty and students to these fields. The baseline concept for the Lunar Lion will strictly follow the requirements of the Grand Prize and the Grand Prize only, leading to the simplest possible system for the mission. By achieving the Grand Prize, Penn State will have accomplished what once took the large-scale effort of NASA's early robotic lunar landers or the USSR's space program. While the Bonus Prizes are noteworthy, ensuring their accomplishment will add development and operational risk to the flight system that could jeopardize the Team's ability to win the Grand Prize. The Team will build the simplest spacecraft, with the fewest number of systems and components. This philosophy will shorten the development timeline and result in a robust flight system that is of minimum cost. Wherever possible, the Team will use commercially available products to satisfy the needs of the system. The work of the Team will be efficient systems integration, careful operational planning, and focused mission execution, all with the Grand Prize in mind. By focusing on innovation rather than invention, Penn State will lead the field of competitors and land the next spacecraft on the Moon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-77
Number of pages13
JournalActa Astronautica
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering


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