NASA is accepting bids from 14 companies under its Commercial Lunar Payload Services program to send a space exploration payload to the moon’s polar regions to study water ice elements.
The agency said Wednesday it aims to send a commercial robotic platform for the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover mission sometime in 2023.
NASA also intends to issue task orders for the delivery of other payloads such as power sources, equipment and other rovers and experimental studies.
As part of the VIPER mission, the commercial rover will work to traverse the moon’s poles to collect soil samples and identify the location of water ice. Researchers will use data from the mission to map water resources and help the agency hit its goal of putting astronauts on the lunar surface by 2024.
Two companies have already been contracted to send payloads to the moon in 2021. NASA also sought bids for an award to deliver eight research payloads in the following year.