Viper Rover to Search Coldest Areas of Moon for Water


Illustration of NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) on the floor of the Moon NASA Ames/Daniel Rutter

Earlier than NASA sends people again to the moon, it plans to ship a robotic explorer: The Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, rover.

NASA introduced its plans for the rover in 2019, however the company has now revealed extra particulars concerning the rover’s design and mission. The goal of the rover is to scour the moon for assets that might be helpful to future human explorers — primarily water. It is going to examine the moon’s South Pole, the place there’s regarded as the best focus of water ice on the moon’s floor.

The South Pole has some areas that are completely shadowed from the solar which suggests they’re extraordinarily chilly. The rover can have to have the ability to navigate by way of each darkness and light-weight and to cope with excessive chilly spots. To assist see within the darkness, VIPER will likely be armed with headlights, the primary to be included on a lunar rover, in addition to particular wheels and suspension to cope with the tough lunar floor.

VIPER can have 4 devices with which to make observations, together with a hammer drill and three spectrometers. Over its mission of 100 Earth days, the rover will map out assets that might ultimately be utilized by human guests.

“The information obtained from VIPER has the potential to help our scientists in figuring out exact areas and concentrations of ice on the Moon and can assist us consider the surroundings and potential assets on the lunar south pole in preparation for Artemis astronauts,” mentioned Lori Glaze, director for NASA’s Planetary Science Division. “That is one more instance of how robotic science missions and human exploration go hand in hand, and why each are crucial as we put together to ascertain a sustainable presence on the Moon.”

NASA will now start the event section of the mission, with the goal to ship VIPER to the moon in late 2023.

“VIPER would be the most succesful robotic NASA has ever despatched to the lunar floor and permit us to discover elements of the Moon we’ve by no means seen,” mentioned Sarah Noble, program scientist for VIPER at NASA Headquarters.

“The rover will train us concerning the origin and distribution of water on the Moon and put together us to reap assets 240,000 miles from Earth that might be used to soundly ship astronauts even farther into house, together with Mars.”

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