NASA lunar rover trundles to a meeting with Doctor Hacksaw and Mister Axe

Bits of doomed Resource Prospector may survive on commercial moon buggies

Lunar Resource Prospector (pic: NASA)

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.

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.

CLPS appears to complement an earlier NASA RFI asking for services to transport cargo to (and potentially from) the surface of Moon.

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. ®




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