NASA canceled the Resource Prospector mission despite President Donald Trump’s announcement about sending astronauts back to the Moon.
Lunar scientists expressed shock after NASA canceled the Resource Prospector mission, the only robotic moon rover currently under development to explore the surface of the Moon.
According to University of Notre Dame planetary scientist and chairman emeritus of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group, Clive Neal, NASA gathered the members of the RP mission and told them it would be shut down by the end of May.
The mission was initially slated to send a robot to Moon’s polar region by 2022 to explore its landscape and gather vital information such as searching for underground water and hydrogen.
On Thursday, LEAG sent a letter to NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine asking for the reinstatement of the mission. A part of the letter read:
“We are writing on behalf of the community that the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) represents regarding the Resource Prospector (RP) mission, which has been under development for much of the last decade, to explore a polar region of the Moon for potential volatile deposits.
These deposits have extremely important exploration implications, as they could be viable resources to support not only human exploration into the Solar System but also a thriving lunar economy. Additionally, the deposits have unique scientific significance since they record the delivery of volatiles to the inner Solar System, including the Earth.”
In an interview on Friday, planetary scientist Dana Hurley of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory expressed her disappointment about the cancellation of the mission.
“If we want to go back to the moon and really work on the moon 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 really enabled by being able to use resources on the moon for making fuel, propellant, life support, that sort of thing,” Hurley was quoted as saying.
“This mission is a first step in trying to understand how we’re going to exploit those resources.”
Following the news of the mission cancellation, NASA said in a statement that some of the instruments from the Resource Prospector mission would be used on future missions to the Moon.
“Resource Prospector instruments will go forward in an expanded lunar surface campaign,” Breidenstein tweeted.
Right now, the future of NASA’s lunar exploration remains vague with scientists saying the move would mean starting from scratch when it comes to sending astronauts to the Moon.
“People have been talking about, How can we do Moon missions as fast as possible? Well, this is the only mission we’ve been developing to go to the Moon. It’s actually a super important mission, and I can’t think of anything more important to do on the Moon than this,” Phil Metzger, a planetary physicist from the University of Central Florida, said.