American space agency NASA on Tuesday announced that it will delay the launch of its water-hunting VIPER Moon rover by a year in a bid to allow more time to develop a landing vehicle for the mission.

According to a statement by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) was set to launch in November 2023, however, now that launch date has been slipped to November 2024 in order to allow more time for ground testing the Griffin lander that will deliver VIPER to the lunar South pole.

"The schedule delay allows time for more thorough testing of the Griffin lander, and a second delivery opportunity in 2024," said NASA.

"NASA's Lunar Exploration Program continues to build a solid foundation for future exploration of the Moon," said NASA's Lunar Science Institute Deputy Director, Dr. Carol Raymond. "We are excited that our international partners are joining us on this journey."

The VIPER mission will be jointly conducted by NASA and the space agencies of Israel and Japan. The US space agency has tasked Lockheed Martin with building the lunar lander, while Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will build the rover itself, which is based on its existing SPOTREx rover concept, which was gbwhatsapp originally developed in cooperation with Germany's space agency DLR.

The original SPOTREx rover concept was designed for a lunar exploration mission called LUNO, which was a joint project between the European Space Agency (ESA) and DLR.

The lander and rover are part of NASA's recently-unveiled Artemis program that is intended to send humans back to the Moon by 2024 and to build a permanent lunar base by 2028.

NASA's newly-appointed administrator Jim Bridenstine said last week that he sees the space agency's efforts to return humans to the Moon as an important step toward sending humans on a mission to Mars in the 2030s.

"We're building up for an eventual human mission to Mars," Bridenstine said in an interview with Fox News on Friday. "The moon is our proving ground."

"The moon is a great place to demonstrate new technologies" he added. "We're really excited about what we're going to be able to do with the commercial sector, to get them involved in this."

The SPOTREx rover is designed to carry up to 400 kilograms of payload, including an array of scientific instruments. The lander is slated to launch on NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket in 2022 and will touch down on the Moon's South Pole-Aitken basin, which is believed to harbor vast quantities of water ice.

NASA plans for the Artemis program will also include sending humans back to the surface of the Moon as soon as 2024 and building a permanent lunar base by 2028.

NASA selected Astrobotic, a Pittsburg company, as the commercial partner to develop VIPER and the Griffin lander for this mission in 2020, through the agency's Commercial Lunar Payload Service (CLPS) initiative. VIPER is tasked with observing and quantifying the presence of ice in the moon's South Pole, and water underneath the surface.

"The South Pole of the Moon is one of the least understood areas on our satellite" said Astrobotic CEO John Thornton. "The data gathered from this mission will be invaluable to scientists in helping us understand how water cycles through the Earth-Moon system."

Astrobotic plans to launch its rover on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and land it on the Moon's Lacus Mortis region, near the lunar South Pole, which has been identified as a potential site for an ice-rich deposit. The company also hopes to become the first private enterprise to deliver payloads to the moon's surface.

NASA and Astrobotic have also partnered for an upcoming mission that will bring samples of lunar material back to Earth. The agency has selected Astrobotic's Griffin lander and Peregrine Lunar Lander (LLV) as part of its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, which aims at bringing lunar samples back to Earth for analysis in laboratories around the world.

VIPER rover is about the size of a golf cart and weighs just less than 1,000 pounds. As per Independent, the rover will use its 3.28-foot-long drill to sample lunar regolith and search for water across various types of the lunar terrain, including craters where deep shadows could have preserved water ice for billions of years.

Astrobotic and Moon Express are planning to launch the first privately funded lunar missions in 2017.

In March 2014, Astrobotic announced that it had teamed up with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland to further develop and test the lander for its planned Moon landing mission. The agreement was part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative which aims at bringing lunar samples back to Earth for analysis in laboratories around the world. Astrobotic is also conducting a series of tests at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a small prototype rover that will be used as a flying demonstrator for its future lunar lander development.

In July 2013, Astrobotic announced plans to send its first lander and rover to the Moon by 2017. The company said it will use SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets and Dragon spacecrafts for this purpose. Astrobotic said that it is working with SpaceX on commercial launch services, including early access to the Falcon 9 rocket through a call for proposals issued by SpaceX on February 22, 2014. The company has also partnered with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland as part of its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative which aims at bringing lunar samples back to Earth for analysis in laboratories around the world. Astrobotic is also building a small prototype rover that will be used as an "flying demonstrator" for its future lunar lander development. As part of the CLPS initiative, Astrobotic said that it is working with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland as part of its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative which aims at bringing lunar samples back to Earth for analysis in laboratories around the world. The company said that it is also working with the Canadian Space Agency on its plans to launch a robotic rover to the Moon by 2020.

Astrobotic operates a team of engineers and scientists who are developing technology and software solutions for use in spaceflight and exploration. The company's engineers have worked on projects ranging from NASA's Mars rovers, to commercial satellite deliveries, to transportation systems for deep space exploration. The company says that it has a significant amount of experience in designing and testing autonomous vehicles that operate in harsh environments including extreme temperatures, radiation and other hazards. Astrobotic also has experience developing high-performance optical cameras and infrared imaging systems used aboard spacecrafts.

As part of its plan to send robotic spacecrafts to explore the Moon, Astrobotic has partnered with several companies including Bigelow Aerospace (BA), lunar prospecting company Deep Space Industries (DSI), Planetary Resources Inc., Robotic Systems Inc., Silk Road Medical Inc., iRobot Corporation and NanoRacks LLC. In addition Astrobotic announced partnerships with Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center, Draper Laboratory Inc., Honeybee Robotics LLC, Santa Clara University's Silicon Valley Space Center, and the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Lab.

Astrobotic is now accepting proposals for its second round of funding. The company aims to raise around $1 million in this round and eventually spend $5 million over five years on the development of a lunar lander. Astrobotic has also announced that it will accept proposals from private companies interested in participating in the mission to the Moon.

"We're excited about moving forward with our partners," said John Thornton, co-founder and CEO of Astrobotic. "We've already been working on a number of fascinating new technologies that we believe will enable us to make significant progress in a very short period."

The company says that it plans to launch its first spacecraft as early as 2015, with its first commercial resupply mission to deliver payloads from Earth's orbit planned for late 2015 or early 2016.