VIPER is NASA’s first of its kind ice rover to be sent to the Moon

  • NASA has planned an Artemis program aimed at exploring the south pole of the moon
  • This program aims to restart the cancelled NASA rover concept to discover possible sources of water in ice deposits on the lunar surface
  • The VIPER rover will be launched by NASA in a Space X designed rocket in 2023 and will spend 100 days on the moon

Mars seems to be the celestial body that is dominating all the conversations regarding space in today’s world. Three space missions were sent to the red planet last year. Elon Musk and his company SPACE-X have the goal of sending people to Mars by 2024 and probably even settle down in a civilisation with the growing pressure on Earth and its resources. Due to this current obsession with Mars, our nearest celestial neighbour, the moon has witnessed a decline in experiments and missions. People have not been to the Moon in the last 50 years.

But all that is about to change very soon. NASA’s Artemis program is aiming at sending astronauts to the lunar South Pole by 2024. But before humans undertake this mission, their destination will be investigated by a robot – VIPER.

What is the goal of the Artemis program?

Artemis will be NASA’s very first mission exploring the lunar South Pole. This comes as a resurrection of a NASA rover concept known as Resource Prospector which was supposed to survey the moon but was cancelled in 2018. Artemis functions with the primary goal of allowing humans to settle on the moon. The name Artemis was also apparently chosen to represent NASA’s efforts of sending the first woman to the moon. Artemis was described as the twin sister of Apollo the goddess of the moon according to Greek mythology.
VIPER-The robot which NASA will launch will land somewhere near the western edge of the Nobile crater. This 73 km wide crater is one of the coldest areas in the entire solar system and is near the South Pole of the moon. This particular area near the Nobile Crater was chosen by NASA for landing due to its mountainous nature and thus making the terrain accessible to rovers.

What is VIPER?

VIPER abbreviated as Volatile Investigating Polar Explorations Rover is an amazing innovation and technological marvel. It is essentially a lunar rover developed by NASA.
VIPER is about 8 ft in height and 5 ft in length and width. The VIPER rover will be equipped with a drill and three analyzers.

  • The Neutron Spectrometer System (NSS), will detect hydrogen ions in subsurface water resources from a distance, this will allow recognising ideal drilling sites.
  • Once these sites are identified, VIPER will stop at the determined location and deploy a 1 m drill called TRIDENT to obtain samples.
  • There are two spectrometers equipped on VIPER. The Near InfraRed Volatiles Spectrometer System(NIRVSS) and the Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations(Msolo) both of which analyze the mineral composition of the collected sample.

NASA aims to launch VIPER towards the moon by November 2023. It will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon-Heavy rocket. VIPER will spend somewhere around 100 days monitoring and exploring the terrain. The main aim of the rover is to evaluate the lunar resources in permanently shadowed areas in the lunar South Pole region. VIPER will characterize and evaluate the ice by using its sensors and drill. The bigger goal of all this data collection is to develop a map of lunar resources for the possibilities of a future human settlement and upcoming civilisations.

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