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NASA picks the target for its water-hunting moon rover

NASA says its VIPER rover will head for the western edge of Nobile Crater near the moon’s south pole in 2023, targeting a region where shadowed craters are cold enough for water ice to exist, but where enough of the sun’s rays reach to keep the solar-powered robot going.

Today’s announcement provides a focus for a mission that’s meant to blaze a trail for Artemis astronauts who are scheduled to land on the lunar surface by as early as 2024, and for a sustainable lunar settlement that could take shape by the end of the decade.

“Once it’s on the surface, it will search for ice and other resources on and below the lunar surface that could one day be used and harvested for long-term human exploration of the moon,” Lori Glaze, director of the planetary science division at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said during a teleconference.


Astrobotic will deliver VIPER rover to the moon

NASA has awarded a $199.5 million contract to Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic to deliver its VIPER rover to the moon’s south pole in 2023, marking one more not-so-small step for the commercialization of lunar exploration.

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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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