A group of scientists advising the Agency in matters lunar expeditions, responded to the closure of the project by letter to the head of NASA Jim Bridenstine. This mission would send a rover to the polar region of the Moon to look for, and study, ice deposits that scientists hypothesize are there.
"These deposits have extremely important exploration implications, as they could be viable resources to support not only human exploration into the solar system but also a thriving lunar economy".
Many in the space and science communities viewed the Resource Prospector as the first step towards sending humans back to the moon. This was the goal of the Resource Prospector mission, to better characterize water ice deposits at the polar regions and to assess the ease (or difficulty) with which they might be obtained.
Resource Prospector has been a mission in early stages of development at NASA for several years. (It does not appear as though Bridenstine was behind the change). This at a time when the Trump administration shifted focus away from Mars and toward the Moon. The physicist explained that initially the development of the lunar Rover was funded from the program of human flights into space, but then the project was handed over to the Department of scientific missions.
"EAS is no longer pursuing a potential independent Resource Prospecting [sic] (RP) mission, but integrating the RP measurement objectives with [Science Mission Directorate] Lunar Discovery Exploration Program and lander capability advancements under the Advanced Cislunar and Surface Capabilities programs", the agency's budget proposal stated. The mission wasn't for science it was to see precede human exploration, according to the LEAG. Second, NASA's lunar science program is designed for small robotic landers, not the 300kg prospector rover.
Resource Prospector was created to be the first step in making use of valuable compounds buried within the Moon's rock, or regolith.
"As the rover traverses the lunar surface, it will use prospecting tools to search for sub-surface water, hydrogen and other volatiles", the U.S. space agency had said.
Prototypes of the mission were executed on Earth in 2015 and 2016, with plans to launch the mission in 2022.