The History of Big Firsts: Lunar Lion

The Penn State Lunar Lion team is the first and only university-led team executing a privately held funding mission, to the surface of the Moon.

The goal is to create a new generation of leaders for a new era in space exploration.  Guided by Penn State faculty, there are an estimated 160 students participating and working with professionals companies responsible for the design, construction, testing, and operation of the Lunar Lion.

There will be video, images, and data sent back to Earth. Visit them on the web at or through social media on: Twitter @lunarlionpsu or Facebook at

This is how Lunar Lion breaks everything down for us on their Campaign Page:

The Lunar Lion space craft will take off onboard a commercial launch vehicle. After cruising through space for five days, the spacecraft will land on the surface of the Moon and send back high-res images and videos to Penn State’s mission control center. After this first lunar touchdown, the team will launch the Lunar Lion from the Moon’s surface and fly it to a second landing site.

Planning and Prototype
Making sure that the Lunar Lion will be ready to blast off from Earth on time and in prime condition requires serious planning and the coordination of many people’s efforts at Penn State. We began our prototype testing this year and will continue moving through our 5 Technology Milestones (TM). These five different iterations, which progressively become more complex, are essentially our road map to the Lunar Lion. The process begins with tethered terrestrial flight in TM1 and ends with the Lunar Lion spacecraft in TM5. 

The team needs to continue to develop the spacecraft’s flight system, as well as test the prototype to validate its design parameters. This is the phase that will show the team if we are on track for delivering the Lunar Lion to a specific location on the Moon’s surface.

Launch Preparation 
After test flights are completed and data is gathered and analyzed, we will conduct final flight system tests and prepare for launch. At this point our team will be ready to develop a detailed operational plan for the flight mission. What once was only data from our calculations and tests will turn into the first lunar landing effort to be led by a university.

Lift Off
Practice makes perfect, so our team will conduct numerous mission simulations leading up to the main event: Launch Day!

Lunar Operations
Mission control will conduct flight operations as the Lunar Lion travels through space and lands on the Moon. During these crucial steps, we will broadcast high resolution videos and photos to the public so that everyone can follow along as we make history!

The Lunar Lion Mission is really a kickass project and we wish the Penn State team all our best in making this vision a firm reality!