NASA to send golf cart size rover to the lunar south pole to sample the water ice

VIPER is expected to roam the moon for about 100 days and collect data on the different kinds of soil on the moon,


NASA is sending a new rover to the moon to look at the water ice concentration on the South Pole. It will also sample water ice in the same area where NASA’s Artemis is expected to land.

The Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) is about the size of a golf cart and is expected to roam several miles. It will have four instruments on board that will help it sample and analyse the soil on the moon.

It is expected to roam the moon for about 100 days and collect data on the different kinds of soil environments affected by light and temperature – environments in complete darkness, occasional light and in direct sunlight. NASA is hoping to create a water map unlike any other that highlights water-rich areas on the moon.

NASA to send golf cart size rover to the lunar south pole to sample the water ice

Artist illustration of NASA's VIPER on the south pole of the moon. Image credit: NASA

Anthony Colaprete, VIPER’s project scientist said in a press release, “VIPER will tell us which locations have the highest concentrations and how deep below the surface to go to get access to water.”

One of the instruments onboard the rover is The Regolith and Ice Drill for Exploring New Terrain (TRIDENT), a one-meter drill that will dig beneath the moon’s surface.

These drilled samples will be analyzed by the Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations (MSolo) and the Near InfraRed Volatiles Spectrometer System (NIRVSS). They will determine the composition and concentration of potentially accessible resources, including water, that will be brought up by TRIDENT.

NASA wants to establish a permanent presence on the moon and to use it as a refueling station for spacecraft traveling to other planets. A source of water is essential for this to happen.

Scientists had considered the lunar poles to be important sources of water ice. ISRO’s Chandrayaan orbiter conclusively discovered water ice 10 years ago, but nobody’s been able to sample this ice yet.

Chandrayaan 2 was sent to the lunar south pole but the lander along with its rover crashed into the moon seconds before touchdown.

Daniel Andrews, the project manager of the VIPER mission said in a statement, “The key to living on the Moon is water – the same as here on Earth. Since the confirmation of lunar water-ice ten years ago, the question now is if the moon could really contain the amount of resources we need to live off-world. This rover will help us answer the many questions we have about where the water is, and how much there is for us to use.

While there is no information on VIPER’s precise landing spot,  it will likely be landing close to the crash site of Chandrayaan’s Vikram lander.

The launch vehicle and the lander that will land VIPER on the moon will be provided by NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services.

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