NASA, on January 13, has successfully tested a new rover Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) for an upcoming lunar mission. The rover will explore the south polar region of the Moon searching for ice and water deposits, and sampling any such deposits it finds, in preparation for the Artemis program in 2024.
The new rover was tested at the Simulated Lunar Operations Laboratory at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio where large, adjustable soil bins at the centre contains lunar simulant and allowed the engineers to mimic the Moon’s terrain. VIPER is a part of NASA’s Moon to Mars project, which endeavours to further human space exploration, build a sustainable lunar economy, and eventually live in space.
The engineering model of the VIPER is about the size of a golf cart. Engineers from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where the rover was designed and built, joined the Glenn team to complete the tests. Data gathered from the tests will be used to evaluate the traction of the vehicle, determine the power required for various manoeuvres, and compare methods for traversing any steeps slopes the rover may encounter on the surface of the Moon.
As stated by NASA in their press release, the VIPER rover is a collaboration between NASA’s various agencies who are responsible for leading the mission’s science, it’s delivery to the lunar and commercial agency Honeybee Robotics in California which is partly responsible for the rover’s instruments.
Named after the Greek god Artemis, twin sister to Apollo (and the name of NASA’s first manned mission to the moon) the Artemis program is NASA’s new mission to land humans on the Moon by 2024. It comes under the aegis of NASA’s Moon to Mars project. Indian-American US Air Force colonel Raja Chari was among 11 new NASA graduates who have successfully completed their over two years' of basic astronaut training and are all set to be a part of the space agency's ambitious future missions to the International Space Station, Moon, and Mars.
According to NASA’s own website, the organisation will use innovative technologies to further push the boundaries of exploring the lunar surface. The Artemis program will also collaborate with various international and commercial partners to establish sustainable missions to the moon by 2028. Once these have been established, NASA will further use whatever knowledge it gains from these projects to further the organisation’s exploration of Mars.
(With inputs from NASA and PTI. Image credits: NASA.gov)