NASA is planning to send a robot rover named VIPER to the Moon. The rover will be launched in late 2023 for a 100-day mission. VIPER will “search for ice and other resources on and below the lunar surface,” according to the space agency.
Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) is a mid-sized rover. The developmental and operational costs are over $433 billion. This does not include the contract delivery cost for the Astrobiotic to deliver the rover through CLPS to the Moon, which costs $226.5 million.
The moon rover will contain four instruments
- Regolith and Ice Drill for Exploring New Terrains (TridentR)
- Near-Infrared Volatiles Spectrometer System (Nirvss)
- Neutron Spectrometer System (NSS), and
- Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations (MSolo) instruments.
The data collected from VIPER will play a key role in mapping resources at the lunar south pole. “One day we can harvest it for long-term human exploration at the Moon,” said NASA. The launch, transit, and delivery plan of VIPER to the lunar surface started last year as a part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative.
VIPER’s design has come a long way since its formulation finished earlier last year. As a result, the rover got its approval for its development by the government. It is under the Artemis Program that launched in 2017. Under it, NASA plans to send a series of robots and human missions to the moon. If successful, they will be the first attempts after Apollo missions almost 50 years ago. As a result, VIPER will explore the extreme environment in search of ice and other resources. It can aid in understanding how water is spread across the lunar surface. We can also learn how to harvest it for advancements in space exploration.