NASA’s Viper lunar rover now has a “ticket” for the 2023 moon landing,media CNET reported. The space agency announced Thursday that it has chosen Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic to sign a $199.5 million contract to send the rover to the moon’s south pole.
Viper (full of volatile survey polar exploration vehicles, Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) is a four-wheeled lunar rover designed to find water ice and sample lunar soil.
NASA plans to send an earlier version of some of Viper’s instruments to the moon before the launch of the rover by the end of 2023. “We’re doing something we’ve never done before — testing instruments on the moon because the rover is under development. Viper and many of the payloads we will send to the lunar surface over the next few years will help us realize the moon’s great scientific potential,” NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen said in a statement.
The Viper Lunar Vehicle program is part of NASA’s larger plan for the moon’s south pole, where the agency hopes to find water resources for future missions. Viper will be NASA’s early robot messenger before it plans to send astronauts to the moon’s south pole in 2024 as part of an ambitious Artemis program.
Astrobotic will use its Griffin lunar lander to transport Viper. The company has signed a contract with NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services team to send its Peregrine lander to the moon in 2021.
Astrobotic competed in the Moon XPrize competition, sending the lander to the moon and testing a prototype of the lunar rover in 2014.