NASA is sending a golf cart-sized robot to the South Pole of the Moon for an up-close view of the location and concentration of water ice in the region and for the first time ever. It’s called “VIPER” (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) and is set to roam several miles using its four science instruments — including a 1-meter drill — to sample various soil environments, with a delivery to the lunar surface planned for December 2022. Read more for a video and additional information.
VIPER is set to collect about 100 days of data that will be used to inform the first global water resource maps of the Moon. The space agency’s ultimate goal is to achieve a long-term sustainable presence on the Moon, thus enabling humans to go on to Mars and beyond. This rover will also unravel the mysteries of the Moon’s South Pole by collecting data on different kinds of soil environments affected by light and temperature – those in complete darkness, occasional light and in direct sunlight – to help NASA map out where else water likely lies across the lunar surface.
The key to living on the Moon is water — the same as here on Earth. 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,” said VIPER project manager Daniel Andrews.