NASA has awarded Pittsburgh based Astrobotic a $199.5 million to deliver the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the Moon’s South Pole in late 2023.
The water-seeking mobile VIPER robot will help pave the way for astronaut missions to the lunar surface beginning in 2024 and will bring NASA a step closer to developing a sustainable, long-term presence on the Moon.
“The VIPER rover is going to be a big boost to our efforts to send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface in 2024 through the Artemis program.”
As part of its award, Astrobotic is responsible for end-to-end services for delivery of VIPER, including integration with its Griffin lander, launch from Earth, and landing on the Moon.
During its 100-Earth-day mission, the approximately 1,000-pound VIPER rover will roam several miles and use its four science instruments to sample various soil environments.
Versions of its three water-hunting instruments are flying to the Moon on earlier lander deliveries in 2021 and 2022 to help test their performance on the lunar surface prior to VIPER’s mission. The rover also will have a drill to bore approximately 3 feet into the lunar surface.
Said NASA’s Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen: “We’re doing something that’s never been done before – testing the instruments on the Moon as the rover is being developed. VIPER and the many payloads we will send to the lunar surface in the next few years are going to help us realize the Moon’s vast scientific potential.”