Meet VIPER, NASA’s New Lunar Rover

Image credit: NASA

The presence of water-ice on the Moon has the potential to significantly assist future human visitors to Earth’s satellite by providing oxygen to breath and hydrogen for fuel, but the exact location and amount of water-ice is still unknown. In 2009, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite detected water-ice in the debris cloud that was ejected from a small rocket that was propelled into the Cabeus crater near the Moon’s south pole.

Video credit: NASA/Ames Research Center

To map out the extent of water-ice in a region near the Moon’s south pole, NASA is now developing a golf-cart-sized rover called the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER). A neutron spectrometer will be used to map the spatial distribution of ground ice and select regolith targets for sampling with a 1-meter-long drill. These samples will then be analyzed using a mass spectrometer and a near infrared spectrometer. VIPER is scheduled to land on the lunar surface in December 2022 for a mission that will last about 100 days. READ MORE