What is the NASA VIPER?

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Apr 28, 2022, 5:40

NASA VIPER - Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) travels to the Moon's the South Pole to get a close-up of the location and concentration of water ice that may eventually be harvested to assist the Moon's human exploration. It is a mobile robot. VIPER is the first resource mapping mission in another celestial body.

Important Facts about the NASA VIPER Mission

NASA VIPER will be launched by the end of 2023. The landing point will be the Nobile area on the South Pole of the Moon. Rockets and landers will be provided by NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services Partner for 100 days on Earth, including three cycles of the moon, day and night. They will cover a distance of 12 miles (20 kilometres).

NASA VIPER - Science and Exploration

Humans have been studying the Moon remotely for thousands of years, but until NASA sent the first humans there on its Apollo 11 mission in 1969, the soil could not be studied in detail. Moon rocks that the astronauts brought home for laboratory analysis were completely dry but now it turns out that these conclusions did not give out the complete story of lunar water. From the early 1990s, a series of orbiter and impactor missions began to stitch together more promising images, culminating in NASA's 2009 discovery confirming the presence of underground ice in the South Pole of the Moon.

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Significance of NASA VIPER

As NASA's first mobile robot mission to the Moon, NASA VIPER will directly analyze the surface and underground ice of the Moon at various depths and temperature conditions within four major terrestrial environments. The data VIPER sends back to Earth will provide a resource map that will help scientists identify the morphology of the Moon, such as the location and concentration of the Moon's ice and molecules chemically attached to ice crystals and other substances.

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NASA VIPER - Challenges and Setbacks

  1. The VIPER team faces new challenges in manipulating the rover on the moon, unlike those addressed in previous rover missions to Mars.
  2. Extreme Temperatures: Rover hardware must withstand surface temperatures - fluctuating 500 degrees Fahrenheit between sunlight and shade.
  3. Batteries, heat pipes, and radiators prevent rover parts from freezing and overheating.
  4. Real-time driver: The moon is much closer to Earth than Mars, so there is almost no delay in sending commands to the Rover. This means that drivers on Earth can interact with VIPER. Rider efforts are key to tight schedules and complex terrain with extended coverage.
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Q.1. What is the purpose of NASA VIPER?

The objective of NASA VIPER is to study the origin and distribution of lunar water and help determine lunar resources for future manned space exploration.

Q.2. What does NASA VIPER target?

NASA VIPER analyzes four areas of the lunar surface. These include:

  • Surface area-Surface floor where stable ice is expected
  • Shallow areas – soil where ice is expected to stabilize within 20 inches of the surface
  • Deep Regions – soil where ice is expected to stabilize at a depth of 40 inches.
  • Arid areas – soil with no expected ice in the top 40 inches.

Q.3. How will NASA VIPER investigate the presence of water on the Moon?

NASA VIPER creates resource maps to help identify where water and other accessible materials can be harvested to feed people during long stays.

Q.4. How will the results of NASA VIPER benefit the researchers?

NASA VIPER results will help find ice from the surface and determine where one can harvest water and other resources to support our long-term presence on the Moon.

Q 5. When exactly will the NASA VIPER mission be launched?

The NASA VIPER mission is estimated to be launched by the end of 2023. The landing point will be the Nobile area on the South Pole of the Moon.