The US space agency has announced its first mobile robot to the Moon in late 2023 in search of ice and other resources on and below the lunar surface.
NASA’s lunar rover, the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, will explore the relatively nearby but extreme environment of the Moon in search of water ice and other potential resources.
This mobile robot will land at the South Pole of the Moon in late 2023 on a 100-day mission.
According to NASA, VIPER represents the first resource mapping mission on another celestial body and the critical information it provides will teach us about the origin and distribution of water on the Moon and help determine how we can harvest the Moon’s resources for future human space exploration.
As NASA’s first mobile robotic mission to the Moon, VIPER will directly analyze water ice on the surface and subsurface of the Moon at varying depths and temperature conditions within four main soil environments.
The data VIPER transmits back to Earth will be used to create resource maps, helping scientists determine the location and concentration of water ice on the Moon and the forms it’s in, such as ice crystals or molecules chemically bound to other materials.
As it prospects for water ice from the surface, VIPER’s findings will inform future landing sites under the Artemis program by helping to determine locations where water and other resources can be harvested to sustain humans over extended stays.