JUNE 13, 2020– On June 11th, 2020, NASA announced that Astrobotic, a Pittsburgh robotics company, had been selected to deliver the VIPER rover to the lunar South Pole as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS), part of the Artemis program, which seeks to land humans on the moon by 2024.
The VIPER rover, or the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, will explore the south pole of the moon, all while using its instruments to test the lunar soil to look for water to create resource maps. It will also have a drill to dig up to 3 feet below the surface.
Information gathered by the rover will be utilized by NASA in order to designate landing sites for human stays on the surface, as well as aiding to find a location for an eventual lunar surface base. The mission will be managed by NASA’s Ames research center in Mountain View, California while the rover is being built by NASA’s Johnson space center in Houston, Texas.
Astrobotic has been awarded $199.5 million to deliver the VIPER rover to the lunar surface in late 2023 on its Griffin lander, an autonomous lunar lander capable of delivering up to 475kg to the lunar surface. They also have two other contracts with NASA to deliver payloads.
Astrobotic’s CEO John Thorton commented on the contract, saying “It is an enormous honor and responsibility to be chosen by NASA to deliver this mission of national importance” and “Astrobotic’s lunar logistics services were created to open a new era on the Moon. Delivering VIPER to look for water, and setting the stage for the first human crew since Apollo, embodies our mission as a company.”
Astrobotic has not announced which rocket will launch the Griffin lander to the lunar surface.
Go NASA. Go Astrobotic. Go VIPER.