In the last week, scientists were stunned on coming to know that NASA has decided to withdraw its first planned lunar rover, an illogical move, as the mission would have facilitated NASA’s intention of sending people back to the Moon. However, every cloud comes with a silver lining. Some people who belong to the private spaceflight industry view this cancellation as a chance for the lunar rover to be utilized as a part of a commercial mission.
The original mission, “Resource Prospector,” consisted of a lunar lander which would have carried the rover (which contains the drill) to the surface of the Moon. NASA eventually altered its plan. Some of the instruments of the original lander will be sent to the Moon, using future landers instead. Unfortunately, the agency will probably not make the original lander it was planning.
Experts find it problematic as the entire point of the mission was to determine the location and accessibility of water ice on the Moon. This information is oh high criticality for organizations like NASA and other companies which want to mine resources of the Moon. Water ice has several prospective uses; it could be used as a source of drinking water or raw material for rocket fuel. The one way to determine these issues would be to collect samples from different locations on the Moon’s surface.
The instruments are only useful if they are present on a rover capable of drilling 1 or 2 meters into the ground. If the measurements are confined to one spot, they will not aid in understanding the economic implications of the water ice, according to Phil Metzger, a planetary physicist at the renowned University of Central Florida.
It could mean that the reins of the project will now be handed over to commercial space organizations. Previously it had been decided that NASA would supervise the design and construction of the rover and a commercial organization would supply the lander. Now it might happen that commercial space companies will provide both the components and conduct the mission according to plan. NASA had devised a budget of about 250 million USD for the Resource Prospector, but commercial companies can now take care of some costs.
This is the strategy that NASA wants to take up to make returning Moon a possibility. Last Friday, the agency said that it is looking forward to sourcing ideas from commercial space companies which can carry NASA payloads and instruments to the Moon’s surface. It’s the onset of Trump administration’s plan to send people back to the Moon.