The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is all set to send a golf cart sized robot to the South Pole of the Moon in 2022 to get a close-up view of the location and concentration of water ice in the region.
The Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) robot will roam several miles, using its four science instruments — including a 1-meter drill — to sample various soil environments. According to the NASA, VIPER will collect about 100 days of data that will be used to inform the first global water resource maps of the Moon.
“The key to living on the Moon is water – the same as here on Earth,” said Daniel Andrews, the project manager of the VIPER mission and director of engineering at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.
“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,” he said.
It is to be noted that NASA's Artemis program begins a new era where robots and humans working together will push the boundaries of what’s possible in space exploration. In collaboration with commercial and international partners, NASA’s ambition is to achieve a long-term sustainable presence on the Moon – enabling humans to go on to Mars and beyond.
“It’s incredibly exciting to have a rover going to the new and unique environment of the South Pole to discover where exactly we can harvest that water,” said Anthony Colaprete, VIPER’s project scientist.
“VIPER will tell us which locations have the highest concentrations and how deep below the surface to go to get access to water,” he added.
VIPER is a collaboration within and beyond the agency. VIPER is part of the Lunar Discovery and Exploration Program managed by the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. Ames is managing the rover project, leading the mission’s science, systems engineering, real-time rover surface operations and software development.
The hardware for the rover is being designed by the Johnson Space Center, while the instruments are provided by Ames, Kennedy, and commercial partner, Honeybee Robotics. The spacecraft lander and launch vehicle that will deliver VIPER to the surface of the Moon, will be provided through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contract, delivering science and technology payloads to and near the Moon.