The U.S. space agency, NASA, has announced it has awarded a $199 million contract to a city of Pittsburgh company to launch its robot lunar rover to the moon in 2023. The agency made the announcement in an online release Thursday.In a statement posted on its website, Astrobotic Technology, a space robotics company, says it will deliver NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the moon’s south pole on board the company’s Griffin lunar lander.The contract was awarded under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program (CLPS)  and is the second CLPS contract Astrobotic has received. The company’s Peregrine lander is scheduled for a NASA mission in in 2021. Astrobotic’s MoonRanger rover was selected by NASA for delivery to the moon in 2022 on the lander of another CLPS contract company.NASA says the VIPER is designed for a 100-Earth-day mission searching for signs of water on the moon’s surface. The rover will travel several kilometers and use its four onboard science instruments to sample soil environments. The rover also will have a drill to bore approximately one meter into the lunar surface.The space agency says VIPER will collect data – including the location and concentration of ice – that will be used to create the first global water resource maps of the moon.NASA says the VIPER’s data will also help determine landing sites for manned missions to the moon beginning in 2024 and will bring the agency a step closer to developing a sustainable, long-term presence there. 
 

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