Cislunar Blueprint to Propel Space Outreach for the Next 50 Years

Purdue Engineering’s Cislunar initiative will have five objectives aimed at accelerating the development of a cislunar region’s economy

In its inaugural call to action, Purdue Engineering’s Cislunar Initiative took a giant leap forward in advancing humankind’s presence in space and the development of the economy in the “cislunar region,” the orbital area encompassing the Earth and moon.

“The ecosystem of human space exploration has been rapidly expanding,” said Mung Chiang, Purdue’s John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering and the Roscoe H. George Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “At this critical juncture, Purdue Engineering is excited to join industry partners in the Cislunar Initiative and call for actions across the ecosystem, ranging from industry-friendly university intellectual property licensing to online learning opportunities from universities to industry.” Mung Chiang

The Cislunar Initiative, led by David Spencer, associate professor in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and Kathleen Howell, the Hsu Lo Distinguished Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, will have five objectives aimed at accelerating the development of a cislunar region’s economy: 

  • Advancing access to space, enabling frequent and sustained transportation to and within the cislunar environment.
  • Envisioning and enabling the infrastructure that provides the necessary support for cislunar space exploration and development through a strong university-industry-government collaborative approach.
  • Identifying and utilizing space resources and materials.
  • Leading in the areas of space policy, economics and space defense.
  • Initiating K-12 educational programs and courses, professional development, internships, co-ops and a Purdue curriculum for the future leaders in cislunar development.

“The Cislunar Initiative aims to conceive, design, and enable the utilization of cislunar space over a 50-year time horizon,” Spencer said.

Launched as part of Purdue’s commemoration of Apollo 11 and alumnus Neil Armstrong’s historic first steps on the moon, Purdue’s Cislunar Initiative collaborates across multiple industries and sectors to address critical areas of need in cislunar space relating to commercial development, government policies and regulation, and research as humans beings expand capabilities into the region that encompasses the Earth and moon.    

“We will leverage Purdue’s unique strengths and respond to the emerging challenges in cislunar space. Also a priority is the further development of a diverse space workforce at all levels,” Howell said.

In order to meet its goals, the initiative will leverage its existing strengths in mission design, space propulsion and planetary sciences to advance access to cislunar space, characterize and enable the utilization of resources from the moon and near-Earth objects, and conceive the infrastructure necessary for cislunar space development and habitability. The initiative also will pull from Purdue’s internationally recognized faculty, unique laboratories and test facilities and network of alumni in the space industry to enable national leadership in the development of this emerging frontier.


The Cislunar Initiative Advisory Board, chaired by Dan Dumbacher, executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, brings together leaders in industry, academia and government.

The other board members are Mary Lynne Dittmar, CEO and president, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration; Tony Gingiss, CEO, OneWeb Satellites; Beth Moses, chief astronaut instructor, Virgin Galactic; Tamaira Ross, principal manager, New Glenn System Design and Definition, Blue Origin; Dane Rudy, CEO, Leo Aerospace; Sam Valenti, vice president of engineering, space and intelligence systems, Harris Corp.; David Wolf, National Space Council, former NASA astronaut; Frank Bauer, FBauer Aerospace Consulting Services, formerly NASA GSFC division head; Rob Chambers, director of human space exploration strategy and business development, Lockheed Martin Civil Space; Dan Hendrickson, vice president of business development, Astrobotic Technologies; Melissa Sampson, program manager, Advanced Systems, Ball Aerospace; and Frank Culbertson, retired president of Northrop Grumman Space Systems Group, former NASA astronaut.

Following the initial advisory board meeting, Dumbacher said, “This is an extremely important initiative using the tremendous capabilities across Purdue’s Engineering and science expertise to build a better future for generations to come. Purdue’s unique strengths will inform the important technical, economic and policy discussions necessary for extending the human neighborhood into cislunar space.”

The Cislunar Initiative aligns with Purdue’s “Giant Leaps” Ideas Festival, which celebrates Purdue University’s global advancements made in health, space, artificial intelligence and sustainability as part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary.

Writer: Cynthia Sequin, 765-588-3340, [email protected]


Mung Chiang, [email protected] 
Dan Dumbacher, [email protected] 
David Spencer, [email protected] 
Kathleen Howell, 765-494-5786, [email protected]

“We will leverage Purdue’s unique strengths and respond to the emerging challenges in cislunar space. Also a priority is the further development of a diverse space workforce at all levels.”