NASA is planning to send a rover to Moon. This will be the first mobile robot sent by the US space agency. It said that rover will search for water and other resources on Moon. The rover will be launched as a part of the Artemis program. NASA is aiming to send humans to Moon by 2023. Under the Artemis program, it will launch three spacecraft. The third spacecraft will take two astronauts to Moon. One among them will a female astronaut. This will be the first time when a female astronaut will travel to Moon. NASA said that the rover will aim to search water ice and other resources on and beneath the Moon surface. The agency has named the rover as Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover or VIPER.
NASA will map resources at the lunar South Pole via the VIPER. The South Pole features craters. These craters are considered unique as rims are exposed to near-constant sunlight, However, the interiors are permanently shaded. Any data obtained from these craters will help in planning long-term human exploration of the South Pole. NASA will provide a specialized set of wheels to the rover to explore the craters. It will have a suspension system that will allow the mobile robot to easily map inclines. The agency said that it will enhance the design of the rover Resource Prospector for the mission. Resource Prospector was a rover designed by NASA to explore Moon’s polar region. But the agency canceled the mission in 2018.
VIPER will have enhanced science capabilities. It will run on solar power. NASA said that VIPER will require to quickly maneuver in light and dark at the South Pole because of its geographical location. It described VIPER as the most capable robot the agency has ever sent to Moon. VIPER program scientist Sarah Noble said that the rover will allow the agency to explore regions of the Moon that have never been seen. The rover will carry four instruments that it will use to conduct experiments. The four instruments are Regolith, Ice Drill, Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations, and Near-Infrared Volatiles Spectrometer System and Neutron Spectrometer System. The agency has already used the earlier versions of these instruments on the lunar surface. Notably, it was in 1972 when humans had last visited Moon. A total of 12 men have walked on Moon so far.