“We’re on the cusp of an Apollo moment,” says Michael Paul, Lunar Lion team leader and director of Space Systems Initiatives for the Penn State Applied Research Laboratory, “and one of the most significant differences between this Moon landing and the first—more than 40 years ago—is that this mission is being driven by the next generation of pioneers, our students.”
He isn’t kidding. Michael Paul–along with 80+ other Penn State students–are entered into The Google Lunar XPRIZE competition. The goal is nothing less than landing on the surface of the Moon for the first time since 1973. In order to garner the $40 million in incentive-based prize, the participants must touch down safely, travel 500 meters in any direction of (or on) the lunar surface, and then successfully transmit two “Mooncasts” back to Earth by December 31st, 2015.
The only problem? Cash is king. Even with 90% private funding behind this initiative, the Lunar Lion team members still have to come up with $406,536 toward the design and build of a Lunar Lion prototype. As a college student, can you even fathom that kind of dough?
Now, of course, students who think they can pull off a moon landing for the first time in over 40 years are also the types who can take on a business challenge. The Penn State students are launching a crowd-funding sub-initiative over at RocketHub, and we think that’s worth a few contributions.
That said, why the hell wouldn’t PSU even attempt to find budget for this?
The average cost of tuition and on-campus lodging for an Astrophysics student at PSU is $13,238 for one semester. Take that figure and multiply it by two for one year’s tuition, then again times four to find the cost of a baccalaureate degree, and lastly times 85 to find that just the students partaking in the XPRIZE competition alone are grossing PSU roughly $9,001,840. That’s if they decide to end their education after four years.
The value in completing a project like this is incredible for all involved, including PSU. Thus not only would the university unrightfully gain academic status and reputation by making history (ahem, profiting off of the people who actually made the history), but they would be able to boast of the achievement in recruitment and admissions materials, drumming up even more interest (and application fees, living costs, and tuition) from prospective and future PSU students.
Of course, budgets are allocated as budgets are allocated and pushing a six-figure line item through when it wasn’t planned for and doted over months in advance is next to impossible. But the fact remains that this would be wise investment for PSU and it’s not like their margins are hurting. (We’re looking at you, Rodney Erickson.)
Anyway, check out the Lunar Lion team’s crowd-funding pitch below. The video alone is more impressive than anything we did during college…
h/t: Digital Journal