In short: The Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) is due to travel to space on a SpaceX Falcon-Heavy rocket in 2023 and will be accompanied to the moon by Astrobotic’s Griffin lander. The plan is to land near the western edge of Nobile Crater at the South Pole and explore the surrounding area and subsoil in search of water and other resources.
NASA has stated that the Moon’s South Pole is one of the coldest environments in our solar system. No other missions to the lunar surface have explored this region; until now, scientists have only been able to study it from afar using instruments attached to orbiters and satellites.
The Nobile crater was formed as a result of a collision with another smaller celestial body. This particular crater region was chosen as the landing site due to its rover-accessible terrain and its proximity to other areas of interest, such as permanently shaded areas. Access to illuminated regions was also important, as the rover would be able to use its solar panels to charge and conserve heat.
Thomas Zurbuchen, Assistant Administrator for Science at NASA Headquarters, said data from the rover will provide a deeper understanding of the origin and evolution of the moon and help in future Artemis missions. Specifically, the team hopes to better understand how frozen water and other resources got to the moon, where they came from and how they have persisted for billions of years, and “how they escape and where they go.”
If everything goes according to plan VIPER will be able to visit at least six areas of scientific interest during a 100-day mission, with time to spare.
NASA conducts Ask about anything The Reddit session ends September 21 at 3 p.m. ET.
Image courtesy of NASA