NASA is currently working on several projects, but VIPER is one of the most interesting ones. The Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover will have a high-power 1-meter drill that will be used to find reserves of water ice under the surface of the Moon. It will also map the south pole of the object.
In recent years many space agencies have started to focus on the potential of the Moon, which could be used as a starting base for a large variety of projects. The Artemis initiative involves a return to the natural satellite by 2024, and VIPER should land on it in 2023.
One of the primary goals which need to be achieved is to find reliable sources of water-ice. Recent advancements will allow astronauts to collect the substance and convert it into more useful stuff, including rocket fuel and drinking water.
NASA’s next lunar rover will drill for water ice on the Moon
The existence of water ice on the Moon was confirmed ten years ago, and with the help of the rover, NASA plans to track down and mark several sources before the crewed Artemis mission is launched.
While the initial schedule involved a December 2022 launch date, the event has been delayed until December 2023. The agency is also looking for contractors to deliver VIPER to the Moon, with the current potential partners being a part of the Commercial Lunar Payload System.
VIPER will carry four instruments, which is quite impressive for a construct that has the size of golf care. The primary tool is TRIDENT, the one-meter drill. NSS or the Neutron Spectrometer System will be used to track down hydrogen and potential water sources from a distance. To determine if the hydrogen marks the presence of water or it hydroxyl, the team will use NIRVSS. MSOLO is the ultimate tool and capable of looking for volatile substances and select minerals.