Tuesday, July 19, 2022

NASA Delays VIPER Moon Rover Launch to 2024

Artist's rendering of what the NASA VIPER Rover would look like during lunar night. (Image Sources: NASA, Wikipedia.org, By NASA - https://www.nasa.gov/feature/new-viper-lunar-rover-to-map-water-ice-on-the-moon, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83402525)

By Glenn A. Walsh

Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Monday (2022 July 18), NASA announced a one-year delay in the launch of the VIPER Rover, that would search for water-ice in craters near the Moon's South Pole. NASA has ordered additional tests on the Moon Lander, called Griffin. Both VIPER and Griffin are manufactured by Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh.

Originally scheduled for launch in November of 2023, VIPER and Griffin are now scheduled for launch in November of 2024. They will be launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. The VIPER mission is part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative.

NASA requested the one year delay in the VIPER mission, to allow additional ground testing of the Griffin Lunar Lander. The additional testing is to reduce the risks to the VIPER mission, by this completely new lander spacecraft. Consequently, NASA will provide Astrobotic with an additional $67.8 million , for a new total project cost of  $320.4 million.

Earlier this month, NASA briefly lost contact with another mission headed toward the Moon. The CAPSTONE lunar orbiter (a 12-unit cubsat launched by private company Rocket Lab) will test and verify the lunar orbital stability, in anticipation of the planned Lunar Gateway Space Station (which will be used by astronauts on their way to the Moon). After losing contact with CAPSTONE for one day, on July 5, NASA officials may want to be even more careful with the much larger and more expensive VIPER.

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, in a news release. “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.”

NASA considers VIPER, as well as other CLPS missions, as a fundamental part of the mission to send men and women back to the Moon via the Artemis spacecraft. CLPS payloads will provide the foundation of information needed to explore the Moon and environs.

The primary mission of VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) is to prospect for resources at and near the Moon's South Pole. In particular, VIPER will be looking for water-ice that may be found in areas of craters which are permanently shaded from sunlight. Future missions could use such water (H2O) for drinking, producing oxygen (O2), and rocket fuel.

The South Pole of the Moon has been a great interest to NASA, ever since it was determined that water-ice may exist in the permanently shaded areas of craters in or near the South Pole. However, even after the completion of the first manned missions to the Moon, a lot was still unknown about the Moon's South Pole.

About 40 years ago, American Lunar Society Founder Francis G. Graham (today he is Professor Emeritus of Physics at Kent State University) participated in a national research project to better map the area near the Moon's South Pole. As part of the project, he took photographs of the Moon's South Pole area using the historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at the original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science and technology museum from 1939 to 1991.

Later this year, Astrobotic will be launching another mission to the Moon. Iris, a small rover built by Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), will be the smallest, first American, first university-built, and first student-built rover on the Earth's Moon.

A commercial spin-off from CMU, Astrobotic will open a Moonshot Museum on Pittsburgh's Lower North Side in October. This new museum will be located adjacent to Astrobotic's manufacturing facility. In addition to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education for young people, this museum will allow the general public to watch Moon rovers being constructed.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---


NASA CAPSTONE Lunar Orbiter: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CAPSTONE
NASA Lunar Gateway Space Station: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_Gateway

NASA Artemis Program: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artemis_program

Related Blog-Posts ---

"CMU to Build 1st Univ.-Based Space Mission Control." Mon., 2022 April 18.

"Library to be Established on the Moon !" Mon., 2018 May 21.

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss          

               Tuesday, 2022 July 19.

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Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator                                                             (For more than 50 years! - Since Monday Morning, 1972 June 12):
Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/
Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: Link >>> http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh: Link >>>  http://www.planetarium.cc  Buhl Observatory: Link >>>  http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/11/75th-anniversary-americas-5th-public.html
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago: Link >>> http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear: Link >>> http://johnbrashear.tripod.com
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries: Link >>> http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc

* Other Walsh-Authored Blog & Web-Sites: Link >>> https://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/gawweb.html

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