Scientists in shock as NASA junks first-ever robotic mission to Moon

by Garry Watts April 30, 2018, 1:13
Scientists in shock as NASA junks first-ever robotic mission to Moon

For much of that time, it stood out as one of the few lunar-focused missions at the agency, with NASA's attention devoted to the Asteroid Redirect Mission and long-term plans to send humans to Mars. "More landers. More science". In a letter to newly confirmed NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group - which conducts analyses for NASA and other space agencies - called for the mission to be reinstated and scheduled to launch in 2022.

Bridenstine linked to a Resource Prospector page on the NASA website, which included a brief statement about the mission's future.

"This action is viewed with both incredulity and dismay by our community, especially as the President's Space Policy Directive 1 directs NASA to go to the lunar surface", the group wrote to Bridenstine, in a letter dated April 26.

Resource Prospector was a mission in which NASA was planning to send a rover to the moon's pole to study the ice deposits that are hypothesized to be there. Materials could also hold important clues about the moon and space, said the scientists.

The rover, which was being designed for lunar missions in the early 2020s, was killed as NASA revealed plans to cultivate "commercial partners" for moon exploration.

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Known as the Resource Prospector (RP), this robotic rover was under development for over a decade, notes a report by PhysOrg.

While the lander and rover parts of the Resource Prospector that would fly to the moon have not been built, numerous instruments have been developed and tested. "It's still good science". The follow-on projects are created to build on progress by NASA so far. "We're just waiting to see where it falls out, organizationally speaking". Some of those companies have already been working with NASA on its Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown, or CATALYST, program, where NASA has provided technical support through Space Act Agreements. But recently, Neal said, NASA moved to transfer the project to its Science Mission Directorate, which develops robotic missions for mainly research, rather than exploration, purposes.

Resource Prospector provides for the creation and launch of a lander and a solar generator equipped with a borer. "NASA is developing an exploration strategy to meet the agency's expanded lunar exploration goals", said the space agency in a statement.

Resource Prospector was created to be the first step in making use of valuable compounds buried within the Moon's rock, or regolith.

The move has thereby astonished the scientists who have been working on the mission.

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