This rover could be the first robot to mine for resources on another world! Targeted for launch in the early 2020s, Resource Prospector (RP) will take a short trip from Earth to the moon, where it will use a suite of rover-hosted instruments to search and characterize sub-surface water, hydrogen and other volatiles. Further, RP may be the first to demonstrate a method for extracting volatiles from beneath the surface and make water directly from the soil.
Before sending RP to the moon, NASA needs to test its resilience to the harsh environments of deep space and extremely cold temperatures in dark craters on the moon. During testing in a thermal vacuum chamber located at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, NASA simulated the thermal environment and extremely low atmospheric pressure and density that RP would experience while roving on the moon.
Harvesting consumables and fuel off of Earth is an important step in truly pioneering space. Just like great pioneers of the past, humans settling deep space must be able to produce or source their food and fuel wherever they may be, whether on the moon, the moons of Mars, or on the Red Planet itself. Resource Prospector’s capabilities represent early steps in learning to “live off the land”, wherever humans go.