Edinburgh, 21 September 2021. – NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) is planned to land near the western edge of the Nobile Crater at the Moon’s South Pole, NASA said.
The mission, starting in 2023, will map and explore the region for water and other resources. VIPER, a part of the Artemis program, will launch on a SpaceX Falcon-Heavy rocket while Astrobotic’s Griffin lander will deliver it to the Moon itself.
The lunar South Pole is one of the coldest regions in our Solar System. It has only been studied by remote sensing so far. Data retrieved suggests that ice and other potential resources exist in the permanently shadowed areas of the Moon. The mountainous area west of Nobile Crater was chosen as landing site as it has such regions. Also, the terrain is accessible for the rover and there is an array of nearby sites of scientific interest. The impact crater is ideal for VIPER to charge via its solar panels and stay warm during its 100-day journey as well.
VIPER is planned to visit at least six sites of scientific interest, with additional time to spare, NASA said. The Nobile region covers 93 square kilometres where VIPER will collect samples from at least three drill locations. Analysing samples from different depths and temperatures will allow NASA to produce a global resource map.