NASA has canceled its only lunar rover currently in development. According to reports, members of the Resource Prospector mission were to close out the project by the end of May. NASA released a statement saying that some of the instruments from the Resource Prospector mission would be used in other missions that would land on the moon later.
The Resource Prospector was being developed as part of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. The mission would have surveyed the moon for compounds that could be mined to support future human explorers. The Resource Prospector mission was in the concept formulation stage, with the aim of launching in 2022.
The concept vehicle has two main components: a lunar lander and a rover with a drill. The rover was designed to excavate materials such as ice and water from the lunar poles for analysis. These materials would then be examined to learn more about its consistency and composition. While NASA has been working on the project for four years, the mission was not fully funded yet.
The cancellation seems at odds with the current administration’s plans for NASA. A few months ago, President Trump signed a directive ordering the space agency to return astronauts to the moon. Jim Bridenstein, NASA’s recently sworn-in administrator, said, “Resource Prospector instruments will go forward in an expanded lunar surface campaign.”
The Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG), which conducts analyses for NASA and other space agencies, is urging the NASA Administrator to reconsider the cancellation. In a letter to Bridenstine, the group wrote, “This action is viewed with both incredulity and dismay by our community,” and called for the mission to be reinstated.
Many lunar scientists say the mission is vital to human exploration. Dana Hurley, a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and a member of the LEAG executive committee, said, “This mission is a first step in trying to understand how we’re going to exploit those resources.” NASA said that it would be putting out a statement about the project.