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.
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