(RNN) – NASA has canceled its long-planned lunar rover mission.
Last week, space agency officials told managers of the project to shut down development by the end of May.
The Resource Prospector mission would have sent a rover to one of the moon’s poles to mine resources like water, hydrogen, helium and oxygen - things future astronauts could use.
Parts from the project will be incorporated into future commercial lunar missions.
“As part of this expanded campaign, selected instruments from Resource Prospector will be landed and flown on the moon,” NASA said.
Cancellation of the mission came 16 months after President Donald Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1. The statement pledges continued deep space exploration by the United States while also promising to return astronauts to the moon.
NASA’s Lunar Exploration Analysis Group said the space agency is making a mistake by canceling the rover.
"It is critical that NASA provide strong leadership in documenting that lunar surface return is being actively pursued," the scientists said. "Cancellation of the only NASA lunar surface mission currently under development to obtain strategic data from the Moon's polar regions is not the way to signal that intention."
New NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine responded on Twitter, saying the space agency remains committed to exploring the moon.
We’re committed to lunar exploration @NASA. Resource Prospector instruments will go forward in an expanded lunar surface campaign. More landers. More science. More exploration. More prospectors. More commercial partners. Ad astra! https://t.co/FaxO6WUDow
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) April 27, 2018
Future missions will likely take place under a new program called Commercial Lunar Payload Services. Under it, NASA would get to the moon using commercial lunar landers.
The program could put human footprints back on the moon sometime in the mid-2020s.
Copyright 2018 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.