Go, VIPER, go!
NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover prototype, or VIPER, just got put through its paces during a lunar terrain test.
Tuesday's press release showcased footage of the rover only a couple of weeks after NASA said it needed an extra year to test the Moon lander accompanying it. The space agency contracted Astrobotic to manufacture a lander through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, or CLPS.
"NASA has tasked US companies to perform a very challenging technological feat – to successfully land and operate on the Moon," NASA's deputy associate administrator for exploration Joel Kearns said in a statement earlier this month about the decision to delay. "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."
Both VIPER and Astrobotic’s lander are set to travel to the Moon aboard SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket.
Watching VIPER train drives home just how difficult the lunar South Pole's terrain will be, making it a lot easier to understand why NASA wanted to double down on Astrobotic's testing. Video footage shows VIPER traversing sand and steep inclines, obstacles that NASA called the "sink tank" and the "tilt bed."
Here's hoping the additional lander tests are just as intense, because Tesmanian reported earlier today that they will add an additional $67.8 million to Astrobotic’s CLPS contract, bringing it to a total of $320.4 million.
That's quite a lot of money, but finding sub-surface ice and water on the Moon would be extremely cool, and that's exactly what VIPER was made to do.
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