Engineers test a prototype VIPER lunar rover at NASA’s Lunar Operations Lab.

Nasa

When NASA sends astronauts back to the moon in 2024, its objective goes beyond short expeditions. The space agency hopes to sow the seeds for long-term exploration missions. But to take the lunar occupation from dreams to reality, humans will need a little help. That’s why a robot named VIPER comes first.

NASA is putting the finishing touches on its design for the Volatiles investigates the polar exploration rover (VIPER). In 2023, the agency will send the golf cart-sized robot to the moon’s South Pole as part of a 100-day mission to search for deposits of ice beneath the surface. Scientists hope to know if future missions could scavenge water from ice deposits and use it as a resource.


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“We can either bring everything from Earth, which is sort of our fallback position, or we can live a little off the Earth using what is naturally there,” VIPER project manager Dan Andrews told CNET. . Andrews also led the Lunar Crater Observation Satellite (LCROSS) mission which confirmed the presence of ice at the moon’s South Pole. We just don’t know exactly where this water is, or how much there is.

This is where VIPER comes in.

The rover is still in the prototype stage, but NASA plans to equip the mission-ready VIPER with a drill and several spectrometers to find, extract and study potential ice packs beneath the lunar surface. Click on the video above to see how the engineers are testing the prototypes and how they will control the rover once it is deployed.

NASA has awarded lunar logistics company Astrobotic a contract worth nearly $ 200 million to deliver VIPER in its Griffin lunar lander. The Griffin lander will be transported on the SpaceX Falcon Heavy.

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