Executive Intelligence Review

FROM EIR DAILY ALERT


NASA Cancels Sole Lunar Lander, Jeopardizing Manned Moon Program

April 30, 2018 (EIRNS)—The scientific community learned last week that NASA has cancelled its only lunar lander mission. The lunar Resource Prospector mission was to place a rover at the Moon’s south pole, drill three feet into the ground, and assess the resources, including water ice, which would be key for future manned missions. Engineers had been working on the spacecraft for four years, and prototypes were tested on Earth in 2015 and 2016, The Verge media reported on April 27. This cancellation was accomplished by the most crass bureaucratic maneuvering: transferring the program from the manned space exploration division, to the space science division, and then declaring that there isn’t enough money for it.

The response from the Lunar Exploration Analysis group, which is an independent advisory group to NASA of the top lunar scientists, was immediate. In an April 23 letter to NASA Administrator James Bridenstine, the scientists pointed out that cancelling the lunar Resource Prospector (RP) mission

“is viewed with both incredulity and dismay by our community, especially as the President’s Space Policy Directive 1 directs NASA to go to the lunar surface. RP was the only polar lander-rover mission under development by NASA.... The cancellation of RP could be viewed as NASA not being serious about a return to the lunar surface.”

The deposits of volatile deposits at the pole “could be viable resources to support not only human exploration into the Solar System but also a thriving lunar economy,” the letter states.

“There are six international robotic lander missions to the Moon’s polar regions planned between now and 2025 as other nations stake their claim to the resources we know are available on the Moon.”

Bridenstine tweeted a vague response, that the “Resource Prospector instruments will go in an expanded lunar surface campaign.” No where or when. NASA released an equally vague statement, that there would be surface missions “later.” But NASA’s budget is currently projected by the administration to be flat for the next five years. Instead, the administration and the new administrator are banking on the commercial space industry to develop some of the infrastructure a lunar program requires. As a result, NASA officials report that the projected landing of an American on the Moon has stretched out to around 2030, more than five years later than earlier plans.

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