On September 20, NASA announced that it is an abbreviation for the Polar Exploration Vehicle that explores volatiles, and it will land near the western edge of the Noble Crater in the south pole of the moon.
Critical criteria for choosing a landing site included available sunlight so VIPER could charge and stay warm during its 100-day journey, as well as a view of the ground to maintain communications with the mission team.
Data showing the potential presence of water and other resources in the area was also important, as was the suitability of the terrain for the wheeled rover. With all this in mind, the mission team plans to explore six locations to the west of Nobile Crater, Digitartlends reports.
NASA describes the moon’s south pole as “one of the coldest regions in our solar system”, as some parts are permanently shaded from the sun.
So far, NASA has only used remote sensing equipment in transit orbits to explore the area, so there’s a lot of excitement about the approaching VIPER mission and what it might discover.
Scientists have already confirmed the presence of ice at the moon’s south pole, and now they are eager to pinpoint the exact locations of water on the moon’s surface and map those places. VIPER’s mission also reveals other useful resources on the moon’s surface.
“The VIPER data will provide lunar scientists around the world with further insight into the origin, evolution and history of the cosmic moon, and will also help inform future Artemis missions to the moon and beyond by enabling us to better understand the lunar environment.
“These previously unexplored regions are hundreds of thousands of miles away,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science.
VIPER will be the first resource-mapping mission to the surface of another celestial body, and it will happen before the next manned mission to the Moon, which will also land at the Moon’s south pole, possibly within the next five years.
VIPER will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket and delivered to the lunar surface by Astrobotic’s Griffin lander as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services Initiative.
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