The Resource Prospector spacecraft which NASA planned to send to the Moon, has been cancelled by the space agency. The announcement was made in a mission update published April 27.
The vehicle was being designed as the fist mining mission ever sent to another world. After landing on our planetary companion, a rover would have traveled over the lunar surface, excavating oxygen, hydrogen, and water. These materials are vital to future human spaceflight, as they may be combined into fuel and water, as well as breathable air.
“Launching one pound of any material into space costs thousands of dollars. One gallon of water weighs more than eight pounds, so the ability to generate water, air and fuel in space could represent enormous cost savings for future deep-space missions,” NASA officials explained.
Resource Prospector vehicle would have launched in roughly five years, including the rover containing a drill, capable of collecting samples from up to one meter beneath the lunar surface. These materials would have been heated inside the rover, driving off materials, which could then be analyzed by the spacecraft.
As part of the drive to explore the solar system, NASA plans to send progressively larger rovers to the Moon and beyond. Officials at NASA believe cancelling the Resource Prospector program will assist them with that long-term goal.