NASA’s schedule for the Artemis program was always unrealistic at the funding levels it had to work with. Now comes another delay, this time for NASA’s VIPER lunar rover mission.
The NASA Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) will be delivered to the Moon on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket using the Astrobotic Griffin lander as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program.
It was expected that the mission would take place in November 2023. Now NASA has requested to delay the mission a year until November 2024.
NASA said its “decision to pursue a 2024 delivery date results from the agency’s request to Astrobotic for additional ground testing of the company’s Griffin lunar lander.” NASA has also added US$67.8 million to the contract bringing the mission total to US$320.4 million. NASA wants to conduct “additional tests aim to reduce the overall risk to VIPER’s delivery to the Moon.”
When VIPER reaches the lunar surface it will search for ice and other potential resources. NASA said “the measurements returned by VIPER will provide insight into the origin and distribution of water on the Moon and help determine how the Moon’s resources could be harvested for future human space exploration.”
“Through CLPS, NASA has tasked U.S. companies to perform a very challenging technological feat – to successfully land and operate on the Moon,” said Joel Kearns, deputy associate administrator for exploration in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “VIPER is NASA’s largest and most sophisticated science payload to be delivered to the Moon through CLPS, and we’ve implemented enhanced lander testing for this particular CLPS surface delivery.”