The researchers explained that there are regions at the Moon’s South Pole that are constantly in the shadow of the Sun – it is very cold there. Therefore, VIPER will have to navigate both in the dark and in the light, as well as to cope with extreme cold temperatures. To aid exploration in the dark, VIPER will be equipped with headlights for the first time on a lunar rover, as well as special wheels and suspension for working on challenging lunar surfaces.
VIPER will have four observing instruments, including a hammer drill and three spectrometers. Over a hundred Earth days, the rover will map out resources that can ultimately be used in future missions.
“The data from VIPER can help scientists pinpoint the exact location and concentration of ice on the Moon and help us assess the environment, potential resources at the satellite’s south pole in preparation for a future mission,” said Laurie Glaze, director of planetary sciences at NASA. “This is another example of how robotic science missions and human-assisted research go hand in hand. Both are necessary for a stable presence on the moon. ”
NASA will now begin the mission design phase to send VIPER to the moon in late 2023. The scientists added that VIPER will become the most efficient robot that NASA has ever sent to the lunar surface, and will allow us to explore parts of the Earth’s satellite that humans have never seen.
“This rover will be able to collect information about the origin and distribution of water on the moon and prepare us to collect resources 384 thousand kilometers from Earth in order to send astronauts to greater distances in the future,” NASA said.