PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – NASA has awarded a nearly $200 million contract to a local Pittsburgh company that hopes soon to be making deliveries to the moon.
It’s a very big deal.
Astrobotic, a space delivery service company that often calls itself the FedEx or UPS carrier to the moon, now has a $199.5 million deal to deliver a very special rover to the South Pole of the moon in 2023.
WATCH: Full Interview With John Thornton
“This is a full end-to-end service contract to deliver a NASA VIPER Rover, which is about a 450 kilogram or 900 pound rover, to be sent up to the surface of the moon, delivered to the pole of the moon where it will then drill for water in the permanently shadowed regions of the moon,” Astrobotic CEO John Thornton told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Thursday.
VIPER will search for water on the moon, a key to future space exploration, says Thornton.
“There’s actually water in those permanently shadowed areas and if we can find it, you can drink it of course, you can split it and have oxygen to breathe and potentially, most important, you can split it and make rocket fuel.”
The company, headquartered on the North Side in Manchester, essentially buys a launch on something like the recent Space X launcher.
“We take the payload from NASA, in this case the large rover, put it on top of our lander, and fly it out to the surface of the moon. Once it’s out there on the moon and landed, we operate that vehicle from mission control right here in Pittsburgh.”
Thornton says Mission Control Pittsburgh will boost Astrobotic employment to well over 100 employees.
“We’re just so honored, so thrilled to be part of this mission. It means a lot to us as a company and have to thank all our friends at NASA for believing in us. And we really look forward to making the nation proud.”