What happened now? NASA has delayed the launch of the future Volatiles (Viper) polar exploration rover by a full year to allow additional ground testing of the Griffin lander.
In 2020 NASA Contract Astrobotic of Pittsburgh will build and deliver a rover to the Moon by the end of 2023. The rover will be tasked with searching the Moon’s surface for ice and other potential resources, and will return data that will help scientists learn more about the origin and distribution of water on the Moon. nearest satellite.
The original contract was valued at $199.5 million, but with this latest extension and others, it now stands at $320.4 million.
The Griffin lunar lander will take the rover to the lunar surface as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. CLPS is a key cog in NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plan, both of which will help lay the groundwork for future visits to the moon and beyond.
Knowing the location of valuable resources such as water could help NASA select future landing sites. Others may use data from Viper when building underground bases or colonies with artificial gravity, and local resources can make it easier for future astronauts to travel to Mars.
Viper is the largest and most complex science payload to be delivered to the Moon via CLPS, so they want to make sure all of their ducks are in the same row. It will weigh about 1,000 pounds and is equipped with four scientific instruments capable of analyzing soil samples. The built-in drilling rig will allow the rover to penetrate almost three feet into the lunar surface.
The rover is expected to spend about 100 days exploring the Moon’s South Pole, but it will all be for nothing if the rover can’t get there safely. NASA said additional testing would reduce the overall risk associated with delivery.
The Viper is currently on track for delivery to the Moon’s South Pole by November 2024. Fingers crossed that we won’t see more delays (or budget increases) during this period.