Newt Gingrich and the Lunar Lion

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich — once nicknamed “Newt Skywalker” for his fascination with space exploration, among other technological pursuits — has been a big fan of Penn State’s Lunar Lion Project ever since having visited State College last spring.

“There’s a real possibility that in 2013 we will have a lion on the Moon — a Lunar Lion,” says Gingrich in his latest “Newt University” interview, which features Lunar Lion Team Leader Michael Paul, a space systems engineer for Penn State’s Applied Research Lab.

Newt Gingrich Lunar Lion
Gingrich examines a 3-D printed mock-up of the Lunar Lion spacecraft.

Penn State’s Lunar Lion team, which is composed of Penn State students, faculty, and engineers, is racing to the moon against 22 other teams as a part of Google’s Lunar X PRIZE competition. The competition will award $30 million to the “first privately funded teams to safely land a robot on the surface of the Moon, have that robot travel 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send video, images, and data back to the Earth.”

Gingrich speaks glowingly of privately funded nature of the Lunar Lion project, praising its entrepreneurial nature in comparison to — in his words — NASA’s struggle with bureaucracy and with the “changing political direction on the future of space exploration”.

The “best part” of this privately funded model for space exploration, according to Gingrich, is that no team will receive any money from Google until they successfully land a robot on the moon.

“The prize model ensures that you pay for the achievement, not for the effort,” says Gingrich.

Embedded below is Gingrich’s full “Newt-U” feature of the Lunar Lion project. For more information on the Lunar Lion, check our January interview with the Lunar Lion’s Michael Paul.

(Editors note: Although Newt Gingrich is an outed Onward State fan, he did not influence the content of this post.)

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Bobby Chen

Writer and photographer, helping tell the many stories of the Penn State community.

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