The Moon's north pole. Photo: NASA/JPL

NASA last week announced that the company Astrobotic will deliver the agency's VIPER rover to the lunar surface, bringing the space agency another step closer to understanding exactly how much water is on the Moon.

Why it matters: Companies and space agencies hope to one day mine the Moon for water that can be turned into rocket fuel that could be used to get spacecraft to other, distant targets like Mars. But how much water is actually there is unknown.

  • VIPER will be the first step toward understanding the Moon's polar water and if it can be harvested.

Details: The VIPER rover is expected to launch to the south pole of the Moon in 2023 for a 100-day mission.

  • The agency will also test out the rover's instruments with landers bound for the Moon in 2021 and 2022.
  • The data the rover collects will help NASA put together a map of water on the Moon and help the agency learn more about what exactly can be done with it in the future.
  • "We’re doing something that’s never been done before — testing the instruments on the Moon as the rover is being developed," NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen said in a statement. "VIPER and the many payloads we will send to the lunar surface in the next few years are going to help us realize the Moon’s vast scientific potential.”
  • Astrobotic's contract is worth $199.5 million.

What's next: The rover is expected to be a precursor mission to NASA's Artemis program, designed to bring astronauts to the surface of the Moon in 2024.

Go deeper: One step closer to mining the moon

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Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Sep 1, 2020 - Science

Rocket scientist Tory Bruno's vision of the future

Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: NASA

United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno believes humanity's push to explore the solar system could one day reduce poverty on Earth.

Why it matters: ULA is the workhorse of the space industry, with a high rate of success for the rockets it flies and big government and commercial contracts. It is well-positioned to one day act as the ride for companies and nations hoping to push farther into deep space.

Bill Clinton slams McConnell and Trump: "Their first value is power"

Former President Bill Clinton on Sunday called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) vow to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg's vacant Supreme Court seat before the next presidential inauguration "superficially hypocritical."

The big picture: Clinton, who nominated Ginsburg to the court in 1993, declined to say whether he thinks Democrats should respond by adding more justices if they take back the Senate and the White House in November. Instead, he called on Republicans to "remember the example Abraham Lincoln set" by not confirming a justice in an election year.

Pelosi: Trump wants to "crush" ACA with Ginsburg replacement

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that President Trump is rushing to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg because he "wants to crush the Affordable Care Act."

Why it matters: Pelosi wants to steer the conversation around the potential Ginsburg replacement to health care, which polls show is a top issue for voters, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Trump administration has urged the courts to strike down the law, and with it, protections for millions with pre-existing conditions.