The NASA mission was to test for natural resources available to humans on the moon. According to media reports, President Donald Trump’s administration was pushing to get humans back there.
The mission called ‘The Resource Prospector’ mission was to send a rover to the polar regions to search for water and other deposits that lay beneath the moon’s surface.
According to the Verge, Scientists are in an uproar over the cancellation and have sent an open letter to Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator, urging to overturn the decision not to go to the moon after four years of planning.
“If we can demonstrate that we can access the water on the moon, then we can start to design the equipment that will mine it and deliver it to the outpost,” Phil Metzger, a planetary physicist at University of Central Florida who is part of the science team for Resource Prospector, told The Verge.
A simple administration at NASA triggered the cancellation. People close to the mission say it was merely transferred from one directorate to another within the organization.
The Verge said that the Resource Prospector was a robotic mission but didn’t fit well within the Science Mission Directorate’s priorities.
A handful of scientists that advises NASA on lunar travels wrote a letter to the Administrator pushing for a reevaluation of the decision of canceling the mission.
In that letter, it was pointed out the importance of the mission as there are plans to return people back to the moon and to increase America’s presence overall.
The POTUS has repeatedly called for NASA to return humans to the moon and has signed the Space Policy Directive 1, making it a priority to return astronauts to the moon before the Mars mission.
As of now, “There are no other [NASA] missions being planned to go to the surface of the moon,” Metzger told The Verge.
Verge also points out that the if water and resources are available, the moon could serve as a spaceport for other missions.
This NASA cancellation smells dirty. It seems like the popularity or dissent against Trump may have influenced their decision more than budgetary or priorities.