Wednesday, October 20, 2021

NASA’s lunar rover VIPER goes where no rover has gone before

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Planned to be the size of a golf cart and weighing 950 pounds (430 kg), VIPER will sport three spectrometers and a 3.28 foot (1 m) drill. Moving at an extremely slow speed of 0.5 mph (0.8 kph), the rover will take samples from three types of lunar environments while battling temperature fluctuations within the range of 500°F (260°C), as it moves from shade to sunlight on the lunar surface.

The solar-powered rover will also need to stay away from extended periods of darkness that can abruptly end the mission. In light of all the collected information, NASA’s Artemis team evaluated many viable paths and finally selected the Nobile crater as the one that offered a lot of flexibility. The crater is mostly covered in shadows making it an ideal site for ice, whereas smaller craters near the roving site will provide access to look for other resources too, the press release said.

Following the announcement, NASA has also organized a Reddit AMA and will answer questions specific to the landing site and the rover today.  The Nobile crater covers an approximate surface area of 36 square miles (93 square kilometers), of which VIPER is expected to traverse 10 to 15 miles (16 to 24 km) during its mission. As it moves through areas of scientific interest, it will drill and collect samples from at least three sites, NASA said, paving way for further estimations and drawing up a resource map that will aid in planning long-term missions on the Moon. 

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