USA’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is planning to send its first mobile robot to the moon in late 2023. According to an announcement made by NASA, this rover will search for ice and other resources on the lunar surface. The rover named Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) will help scientists to map data of recourses at the lunar South Pole that could later be used during human exploration of the moon.
The data collected by VIPER will be used by scientist to determine the precise location of resources on the moon and evaluate the potential recourses at the lunar South Pole in preparation for Artemis astronauts.
Program scientist for VIPER at NASA Headquarters, Sara Noble says that VIPER will be the most capable robot that the space agency has ever sent to the lunar surface and will explore parts of the moon “we’ve never seen.”
VIPER will be equipped with a specialized wheel and suspension system that will enable it to explore through a variety of soil types and inclination on the lunar surface. It will also be using the first headlight on a lunar rover to aid in exploring the permanently shadowed regions of the moon. These parts of the moon are some of the coldest spots in the solar system. The rover will run on solar power.
The VIPER design has come a long way and the formulation phase was recently completed. NASA has now approved the rover to enter in development phase.
Under the Artemins Program that was launched in 2017, NASA plans to send robots and humans to explore the moon. If the plan is successful, it will be the first crewed lunar mission since the end of the Apollo program in 1972. The space agency also aims to send the first woman to the Moon. She will be part of three-member crew that will land on the moon under the Artemins Program.