Penn State's Lunar Lion team aims to land vehicle on moon by 2015

A’ndrea Elyse Messer
February 22, 2011

Last week the Penn State Lunar Lion team joined 28 others in the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE Competition, a challenge to researchers from around the globe to build and launch a privately funded spacecraft capable of completing a series of exploration and imaging tasks.

To win the grand prize of $20 million, a team must be the first to place a vehicle on the moon's surface that explores at least two locations a third of a mile apart. The vehicle must transmit high-resolution images of both locations back to Earth. The second team to accomplish this feat will win $5 million. The teams have until December 31, 2015, to complete the objective.

The Lunar Lion team is a combination of Penn State students and researchers in electrical, mechanical, and aerospace engineering, as well as astronomy and geosciences. In the accompanying video, team leader Michael V. Paul, space systems engineer at Penn State's Applied Research Laboratory, explains their task.

"Penn State has the breadth of technical expertise to tackle this challenge," said President Graham Spanier. "This project also will offer numerous opportunities for faculty and students from across the University to collaborate on achieving a common goal and will showcase the expanse of Penn State's expertise in the sciences and engineering."

Spanier noted that the lion's share of the funding for this project will come from philanthropy, corporate sponsors and scientific partners in the private sector. The competition rules allow for up to 10 percent government funding as well.

For more information about the Penn State Lunar Lion team, please visit For more information about the Google Lunar X PRIZE visit

Last Updated February 22, 2011