NASA and Astrobotic will deliver water-seeking VIPER rover to the Moon

James Marshall
June 14, 2020

After the VIPER rover is launched into space aboard a rocket, Astrobotic's lunar lander, named Griffin, will carry VIPER on the final leg of its 239,000-mile journey, taking it from orbit to a soft landing in the south pole of the Moon.

"The VIPER rover and the commercial partnership that will deliver it to the Moon are a prime example of how the scientific community and US industry are making NASA's lunar exploration vision a reality", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. VIPER will look for the location and concentration of ice on the Moon's surface, which will inform manned missions planned for 2024, according to NASA.

The Commercial Lunar Payload Services activity will give NASA a "rapid acquisition" of business Lunar capacities, which will encourage the organization's ability of science and business advancement of the moon.

The Pittsburgh-based company will get $199.5 million under the new fixed-value contract, which requests that the company assemble and testing a lander rocket that can ship NASA's automated wanderer, VIPER, to the lunar surface.

"CLPS is a totally creative way to advance lunar exploration", said NASA's Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen. "We're doing something that's never been done before - testing instruments on the Moon as the rover is being developed".

VIPER's primary role will be to help scientists better understand orbital data that hints to where ice reserves may be lurking under the moon's surface. The instruments will have to prove their worth, and engineers will have the opportunity to iron out any kinks before the VIPER rover embarks on its mission, which is expected to last approximately 100 Earth days. NASA has been vigorously centered around hurrying the arrival of lunar investigation under the order of Vice President Mike Pence, who said a year ago that the space organization should return people to the moon by 2024 "by any means necessary".

Viper will collect the data that will be used to create the first water resource maps for the Moon.

VIPER's future strategic, with different CLPS missions, will assist NASA with the Artemis Program.

Humans may be destined to explore the solar system (and perhaps beyond, but the jury is still out on that), but first, it's probably a good idea that we explore the closest "world" to Earth, which happens to be our own Moon.

During the 2021 mission, they will be using a Peregrine lander to send various small payloads to the Moon's surface for various space agencies. Much of it is locked away in ice, and the surface material of the Moon, called lunar regolith, is thought to hold a significant amount.

It's been about 50 years since a US-made shuttle - mechanical or ran - has arrived on the lunar surface.

Astrobotic CEO John Thornton commented on the landing the contract, saying, "It is an enormous honor and responsibility to be chosen by NASA to deliver this mission of national importance". He says, "Astrobotic's lunar logistics services were created to open a new era on the Moon".

NASA has been expanding its commercial partnerships in recent years, contracting companies like SpaceX and Boeing to fly crews to the International Space Station (ISS). Both lander product lines put a heavy emphasis on safe and reliable delivery of customer payloads to the Moon. CLPS is part of the Lunar Discovery and Exploration Program managed by the agency's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington. It's all part of the VIPER project.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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