NASA has announced that they are sending a mobile robot to the South Pole of the Moon in order to assess the concentration of water ice in the region.
The Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) is around the size of a golf cart and will roam several miles. Planned for delivery to the lunar surface by 2022, the VIPER will collect around 100 days of data that will be used to inform the first global water resource map of the Moon.
“The key to living on the Moon is water – the same as here on Earth,” said Daniel Andrews, the project manager of the VIPER mission and director of engineering at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.
Andrews continued: “Since the confirmation of lunar water-ice ten years ago, the question now is if the Moon could really contain the amount of resources we need to live off-world. This rover will help us answer the many questions we have about where the water is, and how much there is for us to use.”
NASA’s Artemis program will begin a new era where robots and humans work together to push the boundaries in space exploration. In collaboration with commercial and international partners, NASA’s ambition is to achieve a long-term sustainable presence on the Moon, which will hopefully enable humans to venture on to other planets.
“It’s incredibly exciting to have a rover going to the new and unique environment of the South Pole to discover where exactly we can harvest that water,” said Anthony Colaprete, VIPER’s project scientist. “VIPER will tell us which locations have the highest concentrations and how deep below the surface to go to get access to water.”