Space robotics company Astrobotic has received a $199.5 million contract from NASA to transport NASA’s newest lunar rover to the moon.
For the purposes of search water ice on the lunar surface, NASA is set to send its Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover or VIPER to the moon in 2022. Some water ice has been spotted in the moon’s Polar Regions, so VIPER will land on the moon’s South Pole and search for ice before the arrival of humans under NASA’s Artemis project. During the course of its 100-day survey, rover will collect numbers that will be used to create maps of where resources like water ice are found on the moon.
Under Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, NASA will join hands with a private company to transport the rover to the moon. The program aims to get a number of companies on America’s space board to bid on offers for shipping cargo and research equipment to the moon in future space missions. Current companies which are involved in CLPS include Blue Origin, SpaceX, Sierra Nevada Corporation, Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, Ceres Robotics, and now, Astrobotic.
Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science stated “CLPS is a totally creative way to advance lunar exploration”. He added, “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.”
However, NASA’s concept of commercial partnerships is a way to throwing extra weight firmly. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stated “The VIPER rover and the commercial partnership that will deliver it to the moon are a prime example of how the scientific community and U.S. industry are making NASA’s lunar exploration vision a reality”.
He further said “Commercial partners are changing the landscape of space exploration, and VIPER 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”.