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NASA Asks Commercial Partners to Land Water-Measuring Drill on Moon

NASA is asking its 14 Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) partners to submit bids to fly the Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment (PRIME-1), a drill combined with a mass spectrometer, to the Moon by December 2022. PRIME-1 is a precursor to the TRIDENT drill and the Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations, or MSolo, that will fly on VIPER, a mobile robot that will search for water ice at the Moon’s South Pole.

The approximately 88-pound payload will be launched to the Moon to locate ice close to the lunar surface. PRIME-1 will drill into the Moon’s surface where it lands, harvest and bring ice to the Moon’s surface, and use a mass spectrometer to measure how much is lost to sublimation as it turns from solid into vapor in a vacuum. The data from the PRIME-1 mission will help scientists understand how VIPER can search for water at the Moon’s pole, and how much water may be available for use as NASA plans to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon by the end of the decade.

PRIME-1 is managed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Through the CLPS initiative, NASA taps its commercial partners to quickly land scientific instruments and technology demonstrations on the Moon. The initiative is a key part of NASA’s Artemis program. The science and technology payloads sent to the Moon’s surface through the CLPS project will help lay the foundation for human missions to the lunar surface.

NASA expects to select a vendor to fly PRIME-1 to the Moon later this year, making it the fifth CLPS surface task order award.

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