"We have just learned that RP was canceled on April 23rd, 2018, and the project will be completed before the end of May", stated the representatives of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group, on April 26th. "More landers. More science".
Clive Neal, professor of civil and environmental engineering and earth sciences at the University of Notre Dame and emeritus chair of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG), is available to comment on NASA's decision to cancel its Resource Prospector mission.
As part of its Resource Prospector mission, NASA was developing a lunar rover that would search one of the moon's poles for compounds essential to human life, such as hydrogen, oxygen, and water. "RP was the only polar lander-rover mission under development by NASA (in fact, by any nation, as all of the worldwide missions to the lunar poles are static landers) and would have been ready for preliminary design review at the beginning of 2019".
"This action is viewed with both incredulity and dismay by our community", particularly because Trump's space policy "directs NASA to go to the lunar surface", the letter said. That update doesn't offer any detail about what sort of mission those instruments would be moved to or when it might reach the Moon. However, the space agency's administrator #Jim Bridenstine took to Twitter to try to clarify what was really going on in context of the overall plans for lunar exploration. "It marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972 for long-term exploration and use", Trump said in December. "We just need to know exactly how much is there".
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NASA issued a statement further clarifying its plans.
Several companies, including former competitors in the Google Lunar X Prize competition, have expressed an interest in working with NASA on launching payloads. "NASA has been a great technology development partner to Moon Express through the Lunar CATALYST program, and the CLPS program would enable us to apply that technology to small robotic missions supporting NASA's goals of lunar science and exploration".
Resource Prospector was created to be the first step in making use of valuable compounds buried within the Moon's rock, or regolith. A 2022 launch, they wrote, would demonstrate NASA's ability to react quickly to changes in space policy, preempt robotic missions being developed by other nations and pave the way for commercial activities on the moon.
"Leveraging commercial investment is more cost-effective" than NASA's historic approach to exploration, and is essential to bring about private-public partnership models demanded by the White House, according to Joel Sercel, a commercial-space advocate who runs a startup that works with NASA.