Astrobotic, a space robotics company, will be responsible for providing a water-hunting rover to NASA by late 2023, the space agency announced.
NASA hasn’t yet decided which rocket it will use to send the rover to Earth’s satellite, but the medium-sized rover will “descend” to the Moon with an Astrobotic lunar lander. It’s all part of the VIPER project.
VIPER – What Is It?
NASA’s VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) will search for water at the Moon’s south pole and will try to determine how much water is lurking in permanently dark craters from the region.
NASA wants to locate the water, and it hopes to extract it for later use in future missions.
Astrabotic was chosen from a roster of other commercial providers as part of NASA’s CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) program. CLPS aims to help NASA send payloads to the Moon to prepare future Artemis missions. The CLPS contract for the rover’s transport costs $199.5 million.
The Artemis program aims to put the first woman on the Moon in the next four years.
Astrabotic is set to launch the next lander to the Moon in 2021. They plan to use the United Launch Alliance’s next-generation Vulcan rocket to complete the mission.
During the 2021 mission, they will be using a Peregrine lander to send various small payloads to the Moon’s surface for various space agencies.
Why Is Water So Important?
NASA is so interested in finding water on the Moon because water is the element of life. Water can be converted to fuel, oxygen, or it can be consumed by humans who need it to live. Though NASA is aware that there is water around the south pole of the Moon, they are not yet sure of the amount of water there is.
They hope to find a lot of water so that it can be used as a big fuel reservoir (or big water tank, whichever suits a mission best).