The world eagerly awaits a monumental event as NASA’s groundbreaking Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) comes to life in Houston’s Surface Segment Integration and Testing Facility clean room. Providing the public with an unprecedented opportunity, VIPER’s assembly and testing process will be livestreamed, allowing viewers a first-row seat to witness history in the making. Members of the VIPER team, alongside the NASA Ames Research Center’s Office of Communications in California’s Silicon Valley, are excited to host watch parties and engage in interactive webchats in both English and Spanish.
Throughout the coming months, these captivating webchats and watch parties will take place approximately once a month, enhancing public involvement and knowledge about the mission. VIPER’s assembly is set to conclude by January 2024, followed by an exceptional lunar journey to the South Pole later the same year. This mission aims to explore the Moon’s enigmatic, permanently shadowed zones and unlock the secrets of its water resources.
“We are thrilled to showcase the incredible progress of the VIPER rover hardware,” expressed Daniel Andrews, the VIPER mission project manager at NASA Ames. “Our collective effort and years of planning are converging into the construction of this unprecedented lunar explorer.”
As components such as the rover’s science instruments, lights, and wheels have already undergone rigorous testing, the final phase of VIPER’s assembly is underway. Once completed, this innovative rover, weighing approximately 1,000 pounds, will be shipped to the Astrobotic Payload Processing Facility in Florida by mid-2024. VIPER’s grand lunar landing atop Mons Mouton is scheduled for late 2024, offering an up-close perspective of the lunar surface. Its primary objective is to map the location and concentration of water ice and other essential resources through the utilization of its drill and three cutting-edge science instruments.
By exploring frozen water and volatiles on the Moon, the VIPER mission will shed light on their cosmic origins and the factors that have preserved them in the lunar soil for billions of years. Additionally, VIPER’s findings will be instrumental in supporting future Artemis missions, as they will provide crucial information about the lunar terrain and potential sites for resource extraction to sustain prolonged human presence.
While NASA Ames spearheads the VIPER mission, responsible for science, systems engineering, and real-time rover surface operations, the design and construction of the rover itself takes place at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The mission’s array of instruments is a collaborative effort of Ames, Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and Honeybee Robotics, a commercial partner located in Altadena, California. The spacecraft, lander, and launch vehicle used for VIPER are part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, which facilitates the delivery of science and technology payloads to the Moon and its vicinity.
For more information and updates on the VIPER mission, please visit NASA’s VIPER webpage.
1. What is the purpose of the VIPER rover mission?
The VIPER rover mission aims to explore the Moon’s South Pole, specifically the permanently shadowed areas, to investigate and map the location and concentration of water ice and other important resources.
2. How will VIPER accomplish its mission?
VIPER will utilize its drill and three advanced science instruments to collect data and analyze the lunar surface. By studying frozen water and other volatiles, researchers hope to understand their distribution, origin, and how they have remained preserved on the Moon for billions of years.
3. What role will VIPER play in future Artemis missions?
VIPER will contribute crucial information about the lunar environment and help identify potential locations where water and other resources can be extracted. These findings will support sustained human presence during extended missions to the Moon.
4. Who is involved in the development of VIPER?
NASA’s Ames Research Center manages the VIPER mission and leads scientific research, systems engineering, surface operations, and rover flight software. The rover vehicle is being designed and built by NASA’s Johnson Space Center, while instruments are provided by Ames, Kennedy Space Center, and Honeybee Robotics. The spacecraft, lander, and launch vehicle required for the mission are provided through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative.
5. Where can I find more information about the VIPER mission?
For more details and updates on the VIPER mission, please visit NASA’s VIPER webpage at http://www.nasa.gov/viper.