NASA‘s first mobile robotic mission on the Moon has been planned for 2023. It was officially announced yesterday that the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) will be sent to the Nobile Crater in 2023 with the task of discovering resources and mapping where water exists, what form it’s in, and where it came from.
The VIPER mission is part of NASA’s Artemis Program, aimed at landing the first astronauts on the dark side of the Moon by 2024, and will launch on the SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services Initiative.
A mountainous region west of the Nobile Crater was chosen as the landing site. The area lies on the South Pole of the Moon alongside other relatively accessible craters and is one of the coldest places in our solar system with patches of space that are permanently shadowed. Years have gone into pinpointing VIPER’s exact landing site and travel path, and scientists are hopeful that this trip will reveal critical information for human space exploration, and help produce a global resource map for the Moon.
According to Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA’s Headquarters, “the data VIPER returns will provide lunar scientists around the world with further insight into our Moon’s cosmic origin, evolution, and history, and it will also help inform future Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond by enabling us to better understand the lunar environment in these previously unexplored areas hundreds of thousands of miles away.”
VIPER’s current planned trajectory will allow the rover to visit six sites of scientific interest, collect samples from at least three drill locations and traverse over 93 square kilometers on its 100-day journey.
Learn more about the VIPER mission on the NASA website.