Michael Paul | Lunar Lion students preparing to become leaders in space and in the world

Editor’s note: This is the third column in a series running every Monday in March.

Penn State’s Lunar Lion team is the only university-led team pursuing the Google Lunar XPrize, a technology incentive prize funded by Google and managed by the XPrize Foundation.

We are attempting to land a robotic spacecraft on the moon and become the first nongovernmental organization and first university to explore the moon.

The Lunar Lion team is made up of students from eight different colleges, from freshmen in engineering to MBA candidates from the Smeal College of Business.

This mission requires expertise from across the university.

With support from faculty and staff from similarly diverse backgrounds and a growing list of corporate and industry collaborators, the Lunar Lion mission is carving a place for Penn State in the growing private and commercial space industry, an industry that keeps our country strong.

On April 1 at 8 p.m. in Eisenhower Auditorium, the Schreyer Honors College will host the keynote address of the first Shaping the Future Summit. The summit is new to Penn State, initiated by Schreyer Dean Chris Brady to bring to both town and gown luminaries from around the world.

This event is free to the public, and I hope that you can join us for a fascinating evening.

The theme is innovation, and as the leader of Penn State’s Lunar Lion team, I am thrilled that the summit keynote speaker is Peter Diamandis, the founder of the XPrize Foundation.

Pursuing this XPrize is aligned with the core mission of the university. Our commitment is to education and research in service to the nation and the world.

This demands that we apply our energy and our collective intellect to critical fields. The expansion of humanity into space continues to be an area of highest technical application; a worthy pursuit in its own right and one that creates benefits far beyond the rocketry that drives us to the stars.

Students from the Lunar Lion team are preparing to become leaders in this challenging and rewarding field.

This fusion of technical know-how and artistic talent, scientific insight and business acumen, imaginative design and purposeful execution is a hallmark of innovation. And the innovation necessary to execute this first private exploration of another body in the solar system — social innovation, technical innovation, business innovation — is demonstrating to the world the power of a Penn State education.

By applying our energies to this challenging field, Penn State is shaping the future, just as Peter Diamandis charges us all to do.

The XPrize Foundation, under Diamandis’ leadership, has shown the world that with the right vision and the will to take action, great things can be accomplished.

Michael Paul is the director of Space Systems Initiatives at the Applied Research Lab at Penn State and is the leader of the Lunar Lion team. He can be reached at mvp12@psu.edu.