Earlier this week, Penn State’s Lunar Lion team launched a crowdfunding effort to raise a little over $400,000 towards its goal of putting a lander on the Moon to win Google’s Lunar X-Prize. In order to win the prize, the team’s lander has to land on the Moon, broadcast video, move 500 meters, then send video again. All by the end of the year 2015.
“We’re the only university with a team in this competition,” Lunar Lion’s team leader Michael Paul told me. “For us, the goal is bigger than the purse – it’s about what we can do as a university to support the private space industry.”
Penn State’s team is comprised of over 80 students, across majors ranging from the obvious science and engineering side to theater students to MBA candidates. The total cost for the project is estimated to be about $30 million, which the university plans to raise through philanthropy, crowdfunding, and other corporate partnerships.
To accomplish the X-Prize requirement that the lander move 500 meters, the team plans on creating a propulsion system that will allow the lander to “hop” from one spot on the Moon to the other. The current crowdfunding effort is geared towards developing that system. One possible means of accomplishing this is through the use of cryogenic liquid bipropellant rocket engines.
The Lunar Lion team has already secured a launch space via Team Phoenicia, which will be sending multiple payloads to space in one launch. That launch system greatly reduces the cost of the team’s launch.
If the team succeeds (and beats its competition), then Penn State will be the fourth organizaiton to put a lander on the Moon, after NASA and the Russian and Chinese space programs. They’ll be the first private organization to put a lander on the Moon.