This would be a really cool mission:
Following a series of reconnaissance missions that found hydrogen and then water on the Moon, NASA is laying the groundwork for a lunar rover that would scout for subsurface volatiles and extract them for processing.
The heart of the proposed (RPM) is the Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen & Lunar Volatile Extraction (RESOLVE) payload, a technology development initiative that predates its official start two years ago in NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division.
Notionally targeted for launch in 2018, RPM would be NASA’s first attempt to demonstrate in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) beyond Earth. The agency has spent just north of $20 million on the project to date, but expects its investment to top out around a quarter of a billion dollars.
“The concept of RPM came up out of the need to fly RESOLVE and the near-term, close way to test that would be on the Moon,” said Jason Crusan, NASA’s chief technologist for space operations.
Irene Klotz has the full story over at Space News.
I also found the following information about the mission in a PowerPoint presentation that Dr. Chris Moore gave to the NASA Advisory Council last July.
- The Resource Prospector Mission (RPM) is being jointly developed by NASA and the Canadian Space Agency to prospect for ice in the polar regions of the Moon. RPM is targeted for launch in 2018.
- Utilizing lunar resources to produce oxygen and propellants could enable new mission architectures for human exploration.
- RPM consists of a rover, a subsurface sampling drill, a small oven to heat regolith samples, and instruments to characterize volatiles.
- Issued RFI on July 2 for NASA-industry partnerships to develop a robotic lunar lander. Potential NASA contributions include technical expertise, test facilities, and hardware or software. Commercial lander could support NASA missions such as lunar resource prospecting and sample return. Responses are due on August 2.
- Mission Concept Review for Resource Prospecting Mission will be held at ARC on September 17. Continuing to work with JAXA on defining a lunar lander concept based on SELENE 2.
- Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) is interested in providing a lunar communications relay for the Resource Prospecting Mission on their 2017 pathfinder orbiter.