Introduction to the Resource Prospector Mission (to the Moon)

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Efficient expansion of human presence beyond low-Earth orbit to asteroids and Mars will require the maximum possible use of local materials, so-called in-situ resources. The moon presents a unique destination to conduct robotic investigations that advance ISRU capabilities, as well as provide significant exploration and science value. Since the moon’s polar regions have confirmed the presence of volatiles, as revealed by the LCROSS and LRO missions, the next step is to understand the nature and distribution of those candidate resources and how they might be extracted. Recent studies have even indicated that if those volatiles are practically available for harvesting, they could be processed into propellants and human life-support resources, significantly reducing the cost of human missions to Mars – maybe by as much as 50%!

Resource Prospector (RP) is an in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) technology demonstration mission under study by the NASA Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate’s (HEOMD). This clever mission is currently planned to launch as early as 2021 and will demonstrate extraction of oxygen, water and other volatiles, as well measure mineralogical content such as silicon and light metals from lunar regolith.


Daniel Andrews currently serves as Project Manager for the Resource Prospector (RP) mission. He was previously the Deputy Director of Engineering at NASA-ARC and since 1987, has managed a diverse and eclectic set of projects at NASA, including the pathfinder LCROSS Mission, which discovered water on the moon. Other notable projects include the Prometheus Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter work at NASA-ARC, leading the development of the Personal Satellite Assistant (PSA) robot, snakebots, helicopter drones, and supersonic/hypersonic facilities modernization projects. Daniel has a BSEE (San Jose State University) and a MSME (Stanford). He is the recipient of numerous NASA awards including the Outstanding Leadership Medal, the Exceptional Achievement Medal, and several Group Achievement awards. His teams have received a number of industry awards such as Popular Mechanics’ Breakthrough Award, the Space Foundation’s “John L. ‘Jack’ Swigert Jr., Award for Space Exploration”, the National Space Society’s Space Pioneer Award, and a nominee for the Aviation Week Laureate Award. Favorite motto: “Take calculated risks. Be willing to change course. Keep moving”.