NASA’s VIPER prototype rover, or Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, has just been tested on lunar-like terrain.
A press release showed images of the prototype VIPER rover just weeks after NASA said it needed an extra year to test the rover’s accompanying lander.
The space agency contracted Astrobotic to produce a lander through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services, or CLPS, initiative.
The VIPER prototype rover is NASA’s largest scientific payload
“NASA has asked American companies to accomplish a very challenging technological feat: to successfully land and operate on the Moon,” NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Joel Kearns said of the delay decision.
“VIPER is NASA’s largest and most sophisticated science payload to be delivered to the Moon via CLPS, and we have implemented enhanced lander testing,” said Kearns, according to Futurism.
Both VIPER and the Astrobotic-made lander are set to travel to the Moon aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.
Very tough tests
Looking at VIPER’s test, we can see how difficult the terrain at the Moon’s South Pole is, which makes it much easier to understand why NASA wanted to delay the launch of the assembly. In the videothe VIPER rover traverses sand and steep slopes, obstacles NASA has called “sinks” and “sloped beds.”
It is hoped that the additional lander tests are just as intense, as the Tesmanian wrote that they will add an additional $67.8 million to Astrobotic’s CLPS contract, bringing the total to $320.4 million.
That’s a lot of money, but finding ice and underground water on the Moon would be extremely cool, and that’s exactly what the VIPER rover was made for.