NASA's Resource Prospector lunar rover mission has been cancelled

NASA plans to return humans to the lunar surface, but it has apparently hit a stumbling block. The space agency has cancelled its lunar rover mission, though it has plans to send certain instruments to the moon in future "robotic missions." NASA had originally planned to launch the Resource Prospector mission in 2022; its rover component was tested on Earth a few years back.

NASA's lunar ambitions follow the Trump administration's November 2017 directive to send humans back to the Moon. That was given as part of the Space Policy Directive 1, and would involve the Resource Prospector. The mission's rover would roll around the Moon's surface, exploring the lunar poles and specifically focusing on water.

Information gathered by the rover would play an important role in plotting future manned missions to the Moon, but instead NASA plans to send only Resource Prospector "instruments," not the full rover, to the lunar surface. It isn't clear why exactly the rover plan is being scrapped, nor what will happen with the vehicle itself.

NASA published an update on its Resource Prospector mission page, stating:

NASA is developing an exploration strategy to meet the agency's expanded lunar exploration goals. Consistent with this strategy, NASA is planning a series of progressive robotic missions to the lunar surface. In addition, NASA has released a request for information on approaches to evolve progressively larger landers leading to an eventual human lander capability. As part of this expanded campaign, selected instruments from Resource Prospector will be landed and flown on the Moon. This exploration campaign reinforces Space Policy Directive 1, which calls for an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system, including returning humans to the Moon for long-term exploration.

NASA reportedly told the Resource Prospector team on April 23 that it had to wrap everything up by the end of next month, according to the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG). The motive behind the change remains unclear, and NASA currently isn't forthcoming with many answers.

SOURCE: The Verge