NASA cancels sending of a new lunar probe

New NASA leader faces an early test on his commitment to Moon landings

Some technology originally slated for Resource Prospector "will go forward in an expanded lunar surface campaign", he wrote.

"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.

Resource Prospector has been a mission in early stages of development at NASA for several years.

According to Clive Neal, a University of Notre Dame planetary scientist and emeritus chairman of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group, members of the Resource Prospector mission were told to close out the project by the end of May.

Long before the former Republican Congressman from Oklahoma narrowly won confirmation, the Trump administration staked out its commitment to rely on entrepreneurs and commercial-space companies to spearhead US efforts to return to the moon. "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. At the time, he said the most likely option for flying the mission would be to carry it on a commercial lander, rather than through an global partnership. The manned moon base will act as a launchpad for missions to Mars and will also explore lunar resources. "It's still good science".




NASA said Friday that it would be putting out a statement about the project. "We just need to know exactly how much is there". NASA expects to issue a formal request for proposals in July. Some of those companies have already been working with NASA on its Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown, or CATALYST, program, where NASA has provided technical support through Space Act Agreements.

Bridenstine said in a tweet: "We're committed to lunar exploration @NASA" with "more commercial partners". But recently, Neal said, NASA moved to transfer the project to its Science Mission Directorate, which develops robotic missions for mainly research, rather than exploration, purposes.

An updated NASA website on the rover mission said "selected instruments" from Resource Prospector will be flown to the moon in the future, apparently on commercial lander missions.

Resource Prospector was created to be the first step in making use of valuable compounds buried within the Moon's rock, or regolith.

"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.

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