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NASA's Broken Moon Rover reflects an identity crisis in US space



Just days after Republican Congressman James Bridenstine was confirmed as the 13th NASA Administrator, he was "both disbelieving and dismayed by the LUNAR Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG)," according to a letter from this group of lunar researchers.

The letter of April 26, signed by LEAG chairman Samuel J Lawrence and LEAG emeritus chairman and Professor Clive R Neal, urged Bridenstine to renegotiate NASA's sudden rejection of the Resource Prospectors (RP) for years. The Rover was originally planned for a launch in the 2020s at a polar point on the Moon, but NASA officially completed the project on April 23, Bridenstine's first day of work

The cancellation is the latest twist on NASA's long-term plan Way for American astronauts to return to the moon and finally to Mars. But the roadmap to these ambitious prospects has been constantly redrawn by the vagaries of successive presidential administrations and is further complicated by the prominent role of companies such as SpaceX, Boeing and Blue Origin in developing launch and space capabilities.

During NASA Partnerships With these companies, it was largely fruitful. The commercial sphere already outshines some of NASA's flagship projects, such as the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket system, which some commentators doubt has outperformed commercial missiles such as SpaceX Falcon Heavy. Perhaps a similar propensity for more private participation led to the decision to discard the RP mission, though Lawrence and Neal say they "do not understand the internal NASA logic for making that decision."

"RP was the only Polar Land Rover mission in development by NASA (in fact, by any nation, as all international missions to the lunar poles are static lander) and would have been ready for a preliminary design review at the beginning of the year 201

9, "the couple stated in the letter.

The planetary scientist from the University of Central Florida, Phil Metzger, who is on RP's science team, speculated on Twitter that the mission may have gotten out of hand to save money on SLS. The decision to transfer the mission from NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Directorate to the Mission Directorate of Science may also have contributed to the cancellation, Metzger told The Verge.

Critics of decision to scrap RP have pointed to President Trump's December. In 2017, he passed the "Space Policy Directive 1", which advocates a return to the moon, supported by partnerships with the private space sector. This focus on the Moon's commercial potential, as well as its usefulness as a gateway to more distant borders like Mars, more or less corresponded to the declared goals of the RP team.

The concept rover was billed as the "first mining" expedition to another world, "NASA's website said, which aims to extract materials such as hydrogen, oxygen, and water from the surface. that it is open to both the "International Space Agency and the industry partner to maximize the value of all aerospace organizations interested."

In response to LEAG's letter, Bridenstine reiterated NASA's commitment to lunar research on Twitter and stated Resource Prospector tools will be continued in an extended lunar surface campaign. "

Bridenstine's" more lander "and" more science "promise was published along with a newly published FBO page (Federal Business Opportunities) commercial proposals for components of lunar surface mission

While it is not yet clear which As the RPP instruments are being transformed into the new plan and what kind of company proposals it will attract, this move is quite in line with the overall outlook of the Trump administration on strengthening US aerospace space companies. For example, in a budget bill released in February, the government proposed privatizing the International Space Station (ISS) after 2024.

Continue reading: Trump thinks that a militarized "space force" is a "great idea"

These internal naval vessels within NASA, along with shifts in their relationships with other space agencies and private companies , reflect a flow in the identity and purpose of the agency, which has become stronger in recent years due to the complexization of the global space landscape.

Lawrence and Neal have now officially found a new administrator. Scientists such as Lawrence and Neal point out that it's time to find clear targets and protocols for all NASA platforms – before other organizations take the lead, and the worlds behind them

"There are six international robotic land missions in the United States Polar regions of the moon, which are planned between now and 2025, while other nations claim their claim to resources of which we know that they are available on the moon, "letter. "It is critical that NASA plays a strong leadership role in documenting the return of the lunar surface."

"The cancellation of the only NASA lunar surface currently being developed to receive strategic data from the polar regions of the Moon is not the right way to signal that intention."

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