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Trump administration cancels lunar rover mission

The Trump administration has shut down NASA’s only lunar rover mission that has been under development for four years.

The Resource Prospector mission consisted of a lander and a solar-powered rover equipped with a drill. The rover would have scouted the lunar surface, digging up soil for analysis. Scientists know that water ice exists on the moon, but the Resource Prospector would have provided scientists with a more complete understanding of these deposits.

Although it was not yet fully funded, the Resource Prospector mission had gotten well past the drawing board. Engineers had been working on the project for four years, and prototypes were tested on Earth in 2015 and 2016, according to The Verge. Plans had the mission launching in 2022. [emphasis mine]

What I see is a project with significant management and budgetary problems. Why has it taken four years and two prototypes to test a lunar rover when we have already flown four rovers successfully to Mars? Granted, redesign for the Moon would be necessary, but this development time, plus two prototypes, seems excessive. Furthermore, the article notes how the project was shifted from one NASA department to another, which apparently has caused some budget and management issues..

The project concept is certainly worthwhile and necessary in order to make future lunar colonies possible. I suspect that the cancellation was because the project managers were simply not delivering.

It could also be that this shut down is a tactical move by NASA upper management to force major changes in the project itself, including a complete change in its management. It could also be a political maneuver to force Congress to give the project its full funding, something it lacks as noted by the highlighted words above. Such maneuvers have been played numerous times in the past, with the most famous example the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA management cancelled it during development, knowing that this act would generate publicity that would force Congress to finally give it the funds it needed. The maneuver worked. Congress reinstated Hubble with a full budget, which was exactly what NASA wanted in the first place.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Dick Eagleson

    I hope you’re right and that Bridenstine’s promise of multiple better rovers to come proves out. One should certainly never casually dismiss an explanation based on the incompetence of NASA management. But given the long lead-times of typical NASA planetary science efforts, cancelling a program halfway to completion also smacks of violating the “bird in the hand” principle. Let’s sincerely hope there prove to be at least two more to be found in the bush.

  • It’s amazing that Resource Prospector Mission was able to move forward at all under the Obama Administration. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was underfunded and hence slow.

    I suspect that the switch to SMD was so that resource prospecting would be absorbed into a the program to establish an ongoing set of commercial lander & rover missions – “capitalism in space”. Yet, as prep for crew return, we should get the Resourve Prospector results using whatever approach works the quickest. And, we shouldn’t be waiting around before starting to build crew-scale lunar landers such as the XEUS-ACES.

  • The mission was in pre-formulation, which I believe means it wasn’t fully funded but work was ongoing. A fair amount of work was done. It’s not clear that there were actual management problems. As for financial problems….well, it wasn’t fully funded. My guess is the administration had to make a decision on whether to go forward with it based on what had been developed. It decided for whatever reasons that there were other ways to go about exploring the moon.

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