NASA is considering the future of the Lunar Trailblazer mission

In the near future, NASA is going to decide the fate of the Lunar Trailblazer mission, which faced overspending and exceeded the established budget. This was announced by Laurie Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division.

The main tasks of the Lunar Trailblazer mission

Lunar Trailblazer is one of three projects selected for implementation in 2019 as part of the SIMPLEx (Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration) program. Its purpose is to study various objects in the solar system using small probes that are launched as way cargo and have a cost not exceeding 55 million dollars.
Lunar Traiblazer device. Source: Lockheed Martin Space

Initially, the contract to create the Lunar Trailblazer was awarded to Ball Aerospace. But after it encountered technical difficulties, its implementation was transferred to Lockheed Martin. The weight of the device is 200 kg. It is designed to search for and map water ice deposits on the Moon, as well as determine the mineralogical composition of its surface. To perform these tasks, Lunar Trailblazer is equipped with two infrared spectrometers.


Until recently, the main complexities of the Lunar Trailblazer mission were related to the launch vehicle. Initially, it was planned to be sent into space by a Falcon 9 rocket, together with the IMAP device. However, after the launch date was postponed, NASA tried to hitchhike some other vehicle heading to the Moon. So, it was decided to launch the Lunar Trailblazer together with the private IM-2 mission in 2023.

But, as it now turns out, the Lunar Trailblazer ran into another problem. Lockheed Martin failed to meet the established budget. NASA does not name the amount of overspending, but it is known that the organization will re-evaluate the project in the fall to determine its future fate. It is also reported that Lockheed Martin specialists are studying the possibilities of reducing costs.

In addition, it is worth adding that the decadal report in the field of planetary science, published in the spring of 2022, contains a recommendation to increase the budget of missions under the SIMPLEx program by 50%. Its authors concluded that NASA is unlikely to be able to fit in the declared cost.

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