NASA cancels robotic mission that was to mine lunar poles
NASA has scrapped its only planned robotic mission to the moon's surface called Resource Prospector. The mission, which was being aimed for a 2022 launch, was developed to excavate materials like hydrogen, oxygen, and water from lunar poles. Earlier, NASA had said that the Resource Prospector "aims to be the first mining expedition on another world."
The Resource Prospector was made up of a lunar lander and a small rover, which would essentially dig up and collect material for later analysis from the moon's surface. It is already known that water exists on the moon in the form of ice. The Resource Prospector's main goal was to examine this ice in-depth and learn more about its consistency and volume.
NASA had been working on the mission for four years and had even built a prototype rover. Phil Metzger from the Resource Prospector team said, "I don't know what the motive was, but I'm guessing it was budget-related." It is speculated that NASA canceled the mission because its human exploration program required a big chunk of the annual budget for developing a giant rocket.
We’re committed to lunar exploration @NASA. Resource Prospector instruments will go forward in an expanded lunar surface campaign. More landers. More science. More exploration. More prospectors. More commercial partners. Ad astra! https://t.co/FaxO6WUDow— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) April 27, 2018
Last December, US President Donald Trump ordered NASA to return humans to the moon as part of Space Policy Directive 1. Further, lunar scientists are also urging NASA to reverse its decision regarding the crucial mission. To this end, it is confusing why NASA would decide to ignore a government directive and pull the plug on a mission it clearly cared about.
The Resource Prospector rover could have resulted in the successful mining of water-ice from lunar poles, drastically changing future lunar missions. The material could have been turned into rocket fuel, which would allow refueling of lunar crafts in space, saving on both volume and cost.