A Team Approach to Space Exploration

A new consortium will coordinate Penn State’s planetary science research.

Announced last October, Penn State’s new Consortium for Planetary and Exoplanetary Sciences and Technology is an interdisciplinary initiative focused on efforts across the university to explore and seek out life in the solar system—and beyond. The consortium, which will connect researchers and students across the Eberly College of Science, the College of Engineering, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, the Materials Research Institute, and Penn State Behrend, aims to provide a new approach to studying how planets form, evolve, and become habitable, as well as detecting and potentially exploring these worlds.

“Penn State already has many of the pieces in place to establish a world-class planetary science program,” says Jim Kasting, Evan Pugh University Professor of Geosciences and inaugural director of the consortium. “This initiative provides a unique opportunity to coordinate our efforts and to become a leader in the emerging field of planetary system science.”

The consortium will house three existing centers: the Penn State Astrobiology Research Center, the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds, and the recently established PSETI Center. A fourth, the Center for Planetary System Science, is also planned. PSETI director Jason Wright says the consortium will allow the university to “align the administrative structure of its efforts with some of the most exciting work being done in the field. I am looking forward to working more closely with my colleagues in astrobiology searching for life in the solar system, designing missions to explore the planets with my colleagues in engineering, and interacting with new faculty that Penn State will be able to attract in planetary science.”  —RJ