NASA will send rover to seek water ice on the moon

VIPER rover
An artist’s conception shows NASA’s VIPER rover roaming the moon. (NASA Ames Illustration / Daniel Rutter)

NASA says it’ll send a rover to the moon’s south pole by the end of 2022 to answer one of the biggest questions surrounding its Artemis moon program: Just how accessible is the water ice that’s mixed in with moon dirt?

The mobile robot — whose race car name, VIPER, is actually an acronym standing for Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover — would be the first U.S. rover launched to the lunar surface since the moon buggies that went with the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions in 1971 and 1972.

“VIPER is going to rove on the south pole of the moon, and VIPER is going to assess where the water ice is,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said today at the International Astronautical Congress in Washington, D.C. “We’re going to be able to characterize the water ice, and ultimately drill and find out just how is the water ice embedded in the regolith on the moon.”

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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