KEY POINTS

  • NASA delayed the launch of a rover mission on the Moon
  • VIPER will look for sources of water on the lunar surface
  • The VIPER mission was delayed due to upgrades on the rover

NASA has confirmed that it has decided to delay one of its upcoming missions to the Moon. According to an official from the agency, the mission’s launch was pushed back in order to carry out upgrades on the lunar rover.

The mission, known as the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER), was supposed to launch in December 2022. However, according to NASA’s latest announcement, the mission will not take place sometime in 2023.

Details of the VIPER mission were officially unveiled by NASA in October last year. As noted by the agency, the mission involves deploying a golf cart-sized rover known as VIPER on the lunar surface.

During the course of its mission, VIPER will utilize its various equipment to look for water on the Moon. Daniel Andrews, the project manager for the mission, explained that finding a natural water source on the lunar surface will be an important aspect in the operations of a future outpost on the Moon.

“The key to living on the Moon is water – the same as here on Earth,” he said in a statement. “Since the confirmation of lunar water-ice ten years ago, the question now is if the Moon could really contain the amount of resources we need to live off-world. This rover will help us answer the many questions we have about where the water is, and how much there is for us to use.”

Recently, Thomas Zurbuchen, the head of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, confirmed via Twitter that the launch of the VIPER mission has been pushed back by a year. According to the NASA official, the agency decided to delay the launch in order to carry out essential upgrades on the rover.

Zurbuchen noted that through these upgrades, VIPER will become a more efficient and reliable rover. The upgrades will enable VIPER to operate for a longer period on the Moon, which means it will have more time searching for water on the lunar surface.

NASA has not yet selected a launch provider for the VIPER mission. Recently, the agency announced that it is calling on its commercial partners to start bidding for the mission. The company that will be selected will be tasked with deploying the VIPER rover on the Moon as its payload.

“The Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative is leveraging the capabilities of commercial industry to send scientific instruments and technology demonstrations to the Moon quickly,” NASA stated.

VIPER NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, is a mobile robot that will roam around the Moon’s south pole looking for water ice. The VIPER mission will give us surface-level detail of where the water is and how much is available for us to use. This will bring us a significant step closer towards NASA’s ultimate goal of a sustainable, long-term presence on the Moon – making it possible to eventually explore Mars and beyond. Photo: NASA Ames/Daniel Rutter