15th July, 2021 Science and Technology
- NASA will launch its Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, in 2023.
- To get a closer view of the Moon's South Pole and evaluate the concentration of water as well as other potential resources on its surface.
- The space agency is undertaking the mission to understand if it is possible for human life to sustain there, by using locally available resources.
- The VIPER mobile robot, is the first resource mapping mission on any other celestial body.
- NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) will be providing the launch vehicle and lander for what's going to be a 100-day mission.
- VIPER measures 5 feet by 5 feet and weighs 430 kilograms.
- The Moon rover will directly analyse the water ice on the surface and sub-surface of the celestial body.
- The VIPER will also evaluate the same at varying depths and temperatures within four main soil environments on the moon.
- The Lunar rover will transmit the data to Earth which will then be utilised in the creation of resource maps.
- It will also help scientists determine the location and concentration of frozen water on the Moon and varied forms such as ice crystals or molecules chemically bound to other materials.
- The findings could be a game-changer, especially because it's not possible to bring everything to the Moon, Mars, and beyond for long-term exploration.
- NASA said that VIPER's findings will inform "future landing sites under the Artemis program by helping to determine locations where water and other resources can be harvested" to sustain humans over extended stays.
- This is going to be a critical step forward in NASA's Artemis programme to establish a sustainable human presence on the surface of the Moon by 2028.
- Artemis program plans to send the next man and first woman to the lunar surface by the year 2024.
- The last time NASA sent humans to the Moon was in 1972, during the Apollo lunar mission.
What is the Artemis program?
- With the Artemis program, NASA wishes to demonstrate new technologies, capabilities and business approaches that will ultimately be needed for the future exploration of Mars.
- The program is divided into three parts,
- Artemis involves an uncrewed flight to test the SLS and Orion spacecraft.
- Artemis II will be the first crewed flight test and is targetted for 2023.
- Artemis III will land astronauts on the Moon’s South Pole in 2024.