NASA lunar rover trundles to a meeting with Doctor Hacksaw and Mister Axe
Bits of doomed Resource Prospector may survive on commercial moon buggies
NASA has hinted that its Lunar Resource Prospector rover won’t be going to the Moon anytime soon. Not in one piece at any rate.
The American space agency's new administrator, Jim Bridenstine, pulled out his axe on his third day in the job, and tweeted out what hinted at confirmation of the rover’s cancellation.
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
The project’s own website was updated accordingly, with text stating “NASA is planning a series of progressive robotic missions to the lunar surface,” just not the rover that it has spent the last few years developing.
Budget watchers will not have been entirely surprised by the kind-of-announcement since the Resource Prospector was conspicuous by its absence from the latest NASA budget request (PDF).
A tweet yesterday from Bridenstine appears to confirm the direction the agency is now taking as far getting payloads to the moon is concerned. Rather than develop in-house, NASA is looking to its friends in the commercial sector to deal with lunar payloads.
In case you missed it, on Friday @NASA released a draft solicitation for Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS). Numerous vendors will compete to carry NASA payloads to the surface of the Moon. Industry Day is Tuesday, May 8. I will be there. @NASAMoon https://t.co/ujvNkxRZDX— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) April 30, 2018
While the older RFI concentrates on launch and landing services, CLPS calls for:
“… all activities necessary to safely intergrate, accomodate, transport, and operate NASA Payloads using contractor provide assets, including launch vehicles, lunar lander spacecraft, lunar surface systems”
This sounds awfully like the commercial sector providing a rover to trundle around the moon while hosting instruments crowbarred off the unfortunate Resource Prospector.
The approach also represents a clear statement of intent by the agency to follow President Trump’s Space Policy Directive 1, which calls for a “U.S.-led, integrated program with private sector partners for a human return to the Moon”.
Companies disappointed to have missed out on Google’s Lunar XPRIZE may yet get a chance to drink deeply from the NASA cash trough.
The Register has contacted NASA for confirmation of the rover's cancellation and will update with comment from the agency. ®