NASA will be sending a brand new rover to the moon with the hope of finding water-ice near the lunar South Pole.
The new rover is called the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) and is roughly the size of a golf cart. VIPER will make use of four onboard instruments to help it analyse any interesting samples it may come across. If everything goes according to plan, this will be the first long-term surface mission to the moon’s surface since Apollo 17 on 11 December 1972.
“VIPER is going to rove on the south pole of the moon, and VIPER is going to assess where the water-ice is,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said last Friday at the International Astronautical Congress in Washington, D.C.
VIPER is set to roam the moon’s surface for approximately 100 days. During the mission the rover will collect data on how lunar soil is affected by complete darkness, occasional light, and direct sunlight.
NASA have already established the presence of ice around the moon’s Southern pole but no one has been able to sample any of it yet, until now. One of the instruments VIPER will use to analyze samples is a one-meter long drill called The Regolith and Ice Drill for Exploring New Terrain (TRIDENT).
The extracted samples will then be analyzed by two pieces of technology called Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations (MSolo) and the Near Infrared Volatiles Spectrometer System (NIRVSS). By working in tandem, MSolo and NIRVSS will determine the composition and concentration of any potentially accessible resources beneath the surface. NASA is hoping to use these findings to create a water-map that highlights water-rich areas on the moon which will assist in setting up a permanent base on the moon.
NASA intends on delivering the VIPER to the moon’s surface by December 2020, although an exact date has not been decided yet.