It has long been common knowledge that there is water ice on the surface of the Moon due to the pioneering efforts of numerous lunar expeditions over the past three decades. In order to truly explore and entertain the idea of humans settling permanently on the moon, scientists at NASA designed a plant to land the world’s first autonomous lunar rover on the moon to search for deposits of dihydrogen monoxide.
The upcoming Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) mission will help scientists better understand how frozen molecules are distributed and how best to extract them from lunar soil. The machine itself is the size of a golf cart and is expected to land on the Moon’s South Pole at the end of 2023. The mission will last 100 days and will see the machine roam the area for four “ice stability regions.” “.
The machine will indirectly survey the surrounding soil, and once it finds a suitable location, the VIPER will deploy The Regolith and Ice Drill for Exploring New Terrains (TRIDENT) to drill and collect soil samples in the depths of the Moon. Although the VIPER is not the first vehicle to grace the surface of the Moon, it is expected to be the first autonomous machine.
There are a lot of variables to consider for the mission, as the VIPER will be handled under potentially difficult conditions. Since the rover is powered by solar energy, the machine uses a different system that would allow all four wheels to be steered independently. Scientists hope to send the vehicle to craters, where no robot or human has ever been. This in itself is a major challenge and it remains to be seen if it can happen.
In case you missed it, the US is investigating Virgin Galactic after Richard Branson’s space flight crash.