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- NASA is inviting people to send their names to the surface of the Moon aboard the agency’s first robotic lunar rover, VIPER – short for Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover.
- The rover will embark on a mission to the lunar South Pole to unravel the mysteries of the Moon’s water and better understand the environment where NASA plans to land the first woman and first person of color under its Artemis program.
- Objective: VIPER aims to prospect and map lunar resources, especially water ice, in the Moon's South Pole region.
- Development: Developed by NASA's Ames Research Center, VIPER is part of the Lunar Discovery and Exploration Program.
- Launch Date: VIPER is scheduled to be delivered to the Moon's surface in November 2024.
- Launch Vehicle: SpaceX's Falcon Heavy will carry Astrobotic's Griffin lander, delivering VIPER as part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative.
- Location: VIPER will operate on the western edge of Nobile crater on Mons Mouton in the Moon's South Pole region.
- Terrain Exploration: The rover will traverse various soil environments affected by light and temperature variations, collecting crucial data.
VIPER is equipped with a suite of scientific instruments to carry out its objectives:
- Neutron Spectrometer System (NSS): Detects sub-surface water from a distance, guiding drilling locations.
- Regolith and Ice Drill for Exploring New Terrain (TRIDENT): A 1-meter drill for obtaining subsurface samples.
- Near InfraRed Volatiles Spectrometer System (NIRVSS): Analyzes mineral and volatile composition, distinguishing water molecules from hydroxyl.
Cost and Management
- Cost Estimate: The mission's estimated cost is $433.5 million, emphasizing its scientific significance and technological complexity.
- Project Management: NASA's Ames Research Center manages the VIPER project, with contributions from Johnson Space Center, Kennedy, and Honeybee Robotics.
- Lunar Water: Data from previous lunar missions indicates the presence of water in various forms, especially in permanently shadowed craters.
- Resource Utilization: VIPER's findings on water distribution and form are crucial for potential resource extraction for future space exploration endeavors.
- Artemis Program Integration: VIPER aligns with NASA's Artemis program, contributing vital data for planned crewed missions to the Moon.
- Resource Utilization Potential: Successful extraction of water molecules could open avenues for propellant production and other space-based applications.
VIPER represents a significant leap in lunar exploration, contributing to our understanding of lunar resources and paving the way for future human missions. The mission's comprehensive scientific payload and strategic landing site underscore its importance in NASA's ambitious plans for lunar exploration.
Q. What is the primary objective of the VIPER rover mission by NASA?
A. Studying lunar craters
B. Mapping the Moon's surface
C. Prospecting for lunar resources, especially water ice
D. Conducting experiments on lunar gravity