Showing posts with label Viper. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Viper. Show all posts

Meet VIPER, NASA's Lunar Ice Hunter Rover!


NASA chooses a Moon location for an ice-hunting rover. 

NASA is hoping that the robot will confirm the existence of water ice under the surface, which may be turned into rocket fuel for trips to Mars in the future. 

NASA said on Monday that in 2023, it will deploy an ice-seeking rover in the Nobile Crater, an area of the Moon's south pole. 

The space agency is hoping that the robot will confirm the existence of water ice under the surface, which may one day be turned into rocket fuel for trips to Mars and beyond. 

"Nobile Crater is an impact crater near the south pole that formed as a result of a collision with another smaller celestial objects," NASA's planetary science division director Lori Glaze told reporters. 

It's one of the coldest places in the solar system, and it's only been studied from afar using instruments from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite. 

Glazer said, "The rover will get up up and personal with the lunar dirt, even digging several feet deep." The robot is known as the VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover). 

It has the proportions of a golf cart – five feet by five feet by eight feet (1.5 meters by 1.5 meters by 2.5 meters) – and resembles droids from Star Wars. 

It is 950 pounds in weight (430 kilograms). VIPER, unlike rovers on Mars, can be controlled in near real time because to its close proximity to Earth - just around 200,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) or 1.3 light seconds. 

The rover is also quicker, reaching a maximum speed of 0.5 mph (0.8 kph). 

VIPER is a solar-powered robot that has a 50-hour battery, can endure severe temperatures, and can "crab walk" sideways to keep its panels facing toward the Sun to keep charging. 

The VIPER crew aims to discover how frozen water got to the Moon in the first place, how it stayed frozen for billions of years, how it escapes, and where it goes now in terms of the mission's scientific objectives. 

Artemis is America's plan to return people to the Moon, and this mission is part of it. 

The first crewed mission is scheduled for 2024, although it will most likely take occur much later due to delays in many areas.

The ice-hunting Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) will land near the moon's south pole, just west of Nobile Crater (Sept. 20). 

VIPER will go to the moon in late 2023 on Griffin, a lander developed by Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic and launched atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. 

In a statement, Daniel Andrews, VIPER project manager at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, stated, "Selecting a landing location for VIPER is an exciting and significant choice for all of us." 

Andrews said, "Years of research have gone into assessing the arctic area VIPER will investigate." "VIPER is venturing into unknown terrain, guided by science, in order to test theories and disclose crucial data for future human space travel." 

VIPER is a key component of NASA's Artemis program, which seeks to create a long-term, sustainable human presence on and around the moon by the end of the next decade. 

According to NASA experts, achieving this objective would require significant utilization of lunar resources, particularly water ice. 

According to observations by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and other spacecraft, the moon has a lot of water ice, particularly towards its poles in permanently shadowed regions (PSRs). 

VIPER is intended to validate such research by informing scientists about how much ice is really there and how accessible it is to humans. 

The Nobile site is 36 square miles in size (93 square kilometers). 

The solar-powered VIPER, which weighs 950 pounds (450 kilograms), will measure and describe the water ice under its wheels at various sites throughout Nobile, including PSRs, which are among the coldest places in the solar system. 

VIPER will collect samples from up to 3.3 feet (1 meter) down over the period of at least 100 Earth days, utilizing three spectrometers and a drill. 

"The data VIPER returns will provide lunar scientists around the world with more insight into our moon's cosmic origin, evolution, and history, and it will also help inform future Artemis missions to the moon and beyond by allowing us to better understand the lunar environment in these previously unexplored areas hundreds of thousands of miles away," Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said. 

The VIPER team had chosen four candidate landing locations for the four-wheeled robot near the lunar south pole. 

VIPER project scientist Tony Colaprete of NASA Ames stated during a press briefing today that the other three were a region outside Haworth Crater, a ridgeline extending from Shackleton Crater, and a location near Shoemaker Crater. 

According to Colaprete, all four candidate locations are interesting and seem to be acceptable both scientifically and logistically. 

"Ultimately, it came down to the overall number of working days," he stated at a press conference today, adding that a "working day" is one during which the rover has enough sunlight to function while still being able to communicate with Earth. 

(VIPER's connection with its handlers will be direct; the robot will not utilize a relay satellite.) 

"To complete our mission objectives, we'll need at least 10 or so days," Colaprete added. "At Nobile, we get 40 or more, which is much more than any of these other locations." 

According to NASA officials, the entire cost of VIPER's mission will be about $660 million, including $433.5 million for mission development and operations and $226.5 million for the delivery contract with Astrobotic, which includes the cost of launch. 

NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services program was used to sign the delivery contract. 

While VIPER will be NASA's first unmanned rover to land on the moon, it will not be the agency's first wheeled lunar vehicle of any kind: during the last three Apollo missions in 1971 and 1972, NASA deployed astronaut-driven moon buggies.

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan 

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