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Moon NASA

NASA's Resource Prospector Mission Could Land On the Moon In 2020 57

MarkWhittington writes: Ever since President Obama foreswore interest in returning to the moon in his April 2010 speech at the Kennedy Space Center, lunar exploration has been on the back burner at NASA. According to a story at Space News, that may change starting around 2020 thanks to a project called RP15, the letters standing for "Resource Prospector," a rover designed to drill into the lunar regolith and collect samples for analysis. The rover, originating at NASA Ames Research Center, was recently tested on a simulated lunar surface at the Johnson Spaceflight Center south of Houston. RP15 was built by the same team at JSC that developed Robonaut 2, now being tested on the International Space Station, with the software being written at Ames. The tests at JSC involved the rover being controlled by engineers at NASA Ames, half way across the country in California.
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NASA's Resource Prospector Mission Could Land On the Moon In 2020

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  • Every time I hear about some wacky idea to mine asteroids or the moon, I think "why"? Surely the costs far outweigh the returns. Anything remotely valuable enough to consider doing it for, like gold, would realistically require lots of water (and gravity) to separate, and it would hardly be viable to bring all the dirt back here to refine. This is pie in the sky stuff (literally!).

    • by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Tuesday September 22, 2015 @01:17PM (#50576145)

      The purpose of this mission is to look for ice at the poles where there are places that haven't seen sunlight for billions of years. It will drill up some soil and then heat it up and examine what volatile compounds there are.

    • Every time I hear about some wacky boat voyage to the New World, I think "why"? Surely the costs far outweigh the returns. Anything remotely valuable enough to consider doing it for, like gold, would realistically require lots of mercury (and gravity) to separate, and it would hardly be viable to bring all the dirt back here to refine. This is pie in the sky stuff (figuratively!).
      • Every time I hear about some wacky boat voyage to the New World, I think "why"? Surely the costs far outweigh the returns.

        The returns were easily demonstrable once we knew of the existence of a new continent. Furthermore the technology for journeying there, exploring and generating an economic return already existed and was well proven (boats, horses, guns, farming, tools, etc) and in wide use. While journeying across the oceans was risky and expensive it wasn't even remotely close to as risky or expensive as space travel. All the technology we had prior to Columbus crossing the Atlantic worked without modification on both

        • The hard part of space travel is getting out of the Earth's gravity well despite atmospheric friction (which totally wrecks several easy ways to launch). Near-Earth orbit is halfway to EVERYwhere else in the Universe, energetically, and one out of the (bulk of the) atmosphere you can apply thrust gradually and efficiently.

          Getting finished goods or refined ores down from orbit is trivial and cheap - as is getting it off an asteroid. Getting it up from the moon requires some infrastructure, but a magnetic c

      • Time to pee I your Cheerios.

        The new word had major advantages that space lacks.

        First is lots of ready use use raw materials to set up base camp and expand upon it. (Wood)
        Second is abundant local food supply,( sure they brought some seeds over but they didn't have to bring a uears worth of food with them, or the soil to grow it)
        Third they didn't have to worry about drinking water or water for plants.
        Fourth to get sizable populations up and running ( like Jamestown? Or Plymouth) took several ships each carryi

        • 4,000 miles had its own boot strap problem in tech taking centuries to get right.

          This was kind of my point. The fact that these problems may take a while to get right is all the more reason to start working them out as soon as possible. But people want to throw up their hands and quit because they don't want to pay an infinitesimal fraction of their taxes toward figuring things out. Because space industry is not immediately profitable, they claim it never will or even can be: "OMG EVARYBODY NOS THAT THIS WILL NEVAR BE PROFITUBBLE IN A MILYUN YRS ITS A WASTE OF TIME!

          Well, it's their m

          • It isn't spac won't ever be profitable. It is space won't be profitable for another century and wall street. only cares about next quarter.

            If we paid 17 trillion dollars over the next 20 years we could have a colony of 50 people on the moon. Maybe.

            The iss is around 150 billion. We would need another 4-5 of them to get really going.

    • by sycodon ( 149926 )

      I'd rather the money be spent on a real ship.

      We need to loft a multi-megawatt reactor to power those engines, provide ample power for life support, and generate a magnetic shield for protection from various forms of radiation.

      It would need it to be big enough to support a centrifugal section for living and working quarters. And that would have to be big enough to provide space for medical facilities, a galley, hydroponics, recycling, etc.

      In short, we'd need to build an actual, for real Ship, not just some t

    • by mrego ( 912393 )
      uh, Helium 3 maybe?
    • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Tuesday September 22, 2015 @04:08PM (#50577311) Journal

      The main idea of mining the moon or asteroids is to use the product up there.

      It is HORRENDOUSLY expensive to lift mass out of the Earth's gravity well. If you're going to build any substantial structures up there, it may (if it's a lot, it WILL) be far less expensive to launch bootstrapping manufacturing technology and mine the resources on the high frontier, rather than burn resources to kick the finished products up there.

      Once it's in orbit, if it can be packed to take some rough handling, getting it down is dirt cheap. Getting big stuff off the moon is also cheap, partly because the gravity well is so much smaller, but mostly because the atmosphere is almost nonexistent, so a solar-powered electromagnetic catapult can do nearly all of the job. So things mined and manufactured "up there", if that can be done cheaply enough, can be easily shipped "down here". (The main cost would be packaging and the disposable guidance system - which could be as cheap as a solar/laser sail or laser-ablated reaction mass coating, and/or the capital cost of busying out a reusable orbit-changer or time on the laser.)

      Refining a lot of stuff does NOT necessarily take a lot of water. If you do use water in the process you can typically get it back to re-use. Also: Water is one of the things you'll be "mining" - assuming that's cheaper than trapping hydrogen from the solar wind and combining it with "industrial waste" oxygen from refining metals out of handy rocks

      • The main idea of mining the moon or asteroids is to use the product up there.

        Exactly right. The purpose of mining operations in space is to produce raw materials to feed into OTHER operations in space. What do these other operations do?

        Well they mine of course. Mining is the only profitable operation in space. So each mining operation will sell materials needed for their mining operations to other mining operations to fund the purchase of materials from other mining operations! Profit for everybody!

        • How about space solar power systems?

          We can bring a LOT more of the population up to new-world power-available-for-living standards if the only "pollution" from energy use is the waste heat after it's used and another 20% or so from rectenna and other transport losses, rather than also dealing with the dumped heat of the carnot cycle; the CO2 emissions, ash, sulfur, radon, etc. of coal and oil; the nuclear waste of fission, etc. Only aneutronic fusion (such as protium-boron11) with direct conversion by alph

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Then, in just a few decades after that we should have the tech to land a person there.

    • Mod parent +1
    • by creimer ( 824291 )
      Retro-tech from the 1960's and 1970's never go out of style.
    • We'll have the tech to get people there before this NASA proposal ever gets off the ground. The Google Lunar X-Prize will be there in a couple of years, anyway (with robots). And once SpaceX gets the Dragon-2 flying, I reckon it would be possible to rig some way to take 2 or 3 people (instead of 7) on a round-trip mission to the lunar surface. (I haven't seen any good data on this... it might require a separate descent stage a-la Apollo. Anybody know?)

      All I know is, there are a lot of very smart people doin

  • The rover [,,,] was recently tested on a simulated lunar surface

    I see what you did there...

  • First there, first rights.

    Sux to be NASA.

    • by sycodon ( 149926 )

      Guess we've had the rights since 1969 then.

      • Guess we've had the rights since 1969 then.

        Like that will stop them.

      • Guess we've had the rights since 1969 then.

        Rights are ephemeral. They only last as long as you are there, sitting on the front porch with your shotgun, yelling at them to "get off your lawn".

        If you're not on the porch, you've abandoned it, and it's "finders, keepers".

  • unlike Mars is always 20 years away (and has been for past 50 years!). My usual gripe of everyone from Musk to NASA to Zubrin love to talk about Mars because they can always defer building a transfer stage and lander to some other smucks 20 years into the future. Now if we talk about the Moon then gotta start building something now. Now this rover is a small mission but at least puts some focus on the nearest celestial body.

    One of you posted a comment that back in 1970s and 80s NASA's plan was to build an

    • Oh the real reason is much simpler [wikipedia.org]. Somebody else wants to go there. Can't be upstaged by another third world country.

    • Now if we talk about the Moon then gotta start building something now. Now this rover is a small mission but at least puts some focus on the nearest celestial body.

      Be sure to wave "Hi" to the Chinese Yutu Rover that's been there since December 2013's Chang'e 3 lunar landing mission by China.

      They might even be willing to sell you fuel to keep your lame ass unmanned rover roving, by 2020.

  • It'd be great if it came home with Chang'e 3 in it's jaws.

    "Yes, we said we were sending it to the moon to retrieve raw materials, it decided on it's own that was the easiest/best source."

  • If feels like the 1960's all over again. Soon.
  • The Moon. If it gets us to Mars within 20 years, go for it. Otherwise, skip it.

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