The Volatile Research Polar Exploration Vehicle (VIPER) will land at the moon’s south pole in 2023 to search for water and other resources, NASA announced Monday (20).
The mission site, which is part of the Artemis program, will be near the western edge of the Nobile crater, where it will explore the surface and subsurface of the area.
The agency’s team evaluated the rover’s viable paths, considering locations where the Viper could use its solar panels to charge and conserve heat during the 100-day journey.
“We are looking for answers to some very complex questions, and studying these features on the Moon, which have stood the test of time, will help us answer them,” said Anthony Collabrett, the scientist coordinating the project.
The Viper, which will be launched aboard a private SpaceX firm’s Falcon Heavy rocket, will study the surface of the moon with an area of about 93 square kilometers.
During the mission, samples will be taken from at least three locations in carefully selected regions, which will provide a greater understanding of a wide range of different types of lunar environments, NASA said.
The Viper team will seek to analyze the properties of the ice and other resources, using sensors and rover drills on board the craft.
Analyzing samples from a variety of depths and temperatures will help scientists better predict where most of the ice on the moon is located, based on similar topography, allowing NASA to map the resources.
The idea is to better understand the distribution of resources on the Moon and to document future manned missions to the lunar surface.
NASA explained that the south pole of the moon is one of the coldest regions in the solar system.
“No previous lunar mission has explored this region,” he added.
Data from previous missions helped scientists conclude that ice and other potential resources exist in regions of the moon near the poles.
The data sent by the snake will provide scientists around the world with a “greater understanding of the cosmic origin, evolution and history of the Moon,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science.
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