NASA’s Only Moon Rover Mission Was Just An Unexpectedly Cancelled: Months after President Trump signing a directive ordering NASA to return astronauts to the moon, the space agency has canceled its only lunar rover currently in development.
NASA’s Only Moon Rover Mission Was Just An Unexpectedly Cancelled
According to Clive Neal, a University of Notre Dame planetary scientist and emeritus chairman of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group, members of the Resource Prospector mission were told to close out the project by the end of May.
I am a little shocked, he says. Neal, who is not directly involved in developing the mission, says he did not know the reason for the cancellation.
Officials from NASA declining to elaborate on the cancellation. But late afternoon Friday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted.
We are committing to lunar exploration NASA. Resource Prospector instruments will go forward in an expanding lunar surface campaign.
More landers. More science. More exploration. More prospectors. More commercial partners. Ad Astra.
The Resource Prospector mission, which was in the concept formulation stage for a potential launch in the 2020s.
Will have surveying one of the moon’s poles in search of volatile compounds such as hydrogen, oxygen, and water that can be mining to support the future human explorers.
It will have the first mission to mine another world and was seeming as a stepping stone toward long-term crewed missions beyond Earth.
The cancellation, previously reporting by the NASA Watch and the Verge troubles many lunar scientists.
They say the mission is vital both to the human exploration and to scientific understanding of the moon.
In a letter to newly confirming administrator Jim Bridgestone, the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group – which is conducting analyses for NASA and other space agencies which are known for the mission to reinstating and scheduling to launch in the year 2022.
This action is viewed with both wonder and dismay by our community,” the group wrote.
Members point out that Trump’s Space Policy Directive 1, signing in the month of December, calls for the United States to lead the return of humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilization.
Dana Hurley, a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, elaborating on the situation in an interview Friday.
If we want to go back to the moon and work on the planet and make it a place that we can set up research stations and study processes that are occurring on the moon.
All these things are enabling by able to use resources on the moon for making fuel, propellant, life support, that sort of thing, says Hurley, who works at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and is a member of the LEAG executive committee.
This mission is a first step in trying to understand how we are going to exploit those resources.
The Resource Prospector was developing as part of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.
A prototype was field testing in the year 2015 and underwent vacuum and thermal trial the following year.
But recently, Neal says, NASA moving to transfer the project to its Science Mission Directorate, which develops robotic missions for leading research, rather than exploration, purposes.
That will have to create a mismatch between the science program’s capabilities and what Resource Prospector design to do, Neal says.
In their letter, the LEAG members advocating for keeping the Resource Prospector as part of the human exploration program.
They are also emphasizing the importance of launching soon.
The year 2022 launch, they write, will demonstrate NASA’s ability to react quickly to changes in space the policy, pre-empt robotic missions developed by other nations and pave the way for commercial activities on the moon.
We have an opportunity here to not only enhance the moon regarding science and human exploration but also to expanding the lunar economy, Neal says.
And if the results from this prospecting are really good, we can go a long way to set up sustainable human exploration of Mars. We need to know exactly that how much is there.
In a move that Neal says was encouraging, Bridgestone tweeting Thursday that he will has a Great 3rd day on the job with the NASA family.
Exciting to get to work on our plan to sustainably return America to the surface of the Moon starting with an aggressive robotic program.
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