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NASA delays its VIPER moon mission

NASA is planning to send its VIPER vehicle to the lunar surface to search for ice and other resources, but the mission will now take place later than expected.

The space agency had planned to send VIPER — short for Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover — to our nearest neighbor in November 2023, but on Monday it said the mission will now take place in November 2024 at the earliest.

NASA said the delay is necessary because it wants to conduct further tests on Griffin, the lander that will set VIPER onto the lunar surface.

“The additional tests aim to reduce the overall risk to VIPER’s delivery to the moon,” the space agency said in a post on its website, adding that to complete the additional NASA-mandated tests of the lander, an additional $67.8 million will be handed to Griffin builder Astrobotic, increasing the total cost of the contract to $320.4 million.

Pennsylvania-based Astrobiotic is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, which paves the way for private U.S.-based firms to create lunar delivery services for NASA missions as part of its Artemis space program. The agency has so far made seven awards to CLPS providers for lunar deliveries in the early 2020s with more delivery awards expected through 2028.

A prototype of VIPER shown off in January featured the same wheel design and also base size as the rover that will be sent to the moon. You can see it in action below:

Roll 'em out… on the Moon 🌕

Our VIPER rover's latest prototype is getting put to the test at @NASAGlenn, as we get ready to search for ice and other @NASAArtemis resources at the lunar South Pole: https://t.co/J5ADlFE6Vn pic.twitter.com/lgtZLM5z6S

— NASA (@NASA) January 26, 2022

According to the space agency, data gathered by VIPER will provide valuable information regarding the origin and distribution of water on the moon and help mission planners work out the best way to harvest those resources for future human space exploration.

For a closer look at VIPER and the 100-day mission that NASA has planned for it, Digital Trends has you covered.

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