NASA has designated a company that will carry its new lunar rover to the lunar surface, paving the way for astronauts to explore potential resources,media reported. NASA is understood to have awarded Astrobotic a $199.5 million CONTRACT for the VIPER (full name VolatileS Reconnaiss Polar Exploration Rover) probe, which it plans to use its Griffin lunar lander to safely bring the probe to a new home.
Griffin Lander is a medium-sized model of the company that can carry a 500-kilogram payload to the moon.
This is an important mission because it will provide NASA with a new perspective on how much resources the moon has for future astronauts. VIPER will be equipped with tools to search for lunar water ice.
If possible, the water ice could be used in the future — creating breathable air for lunar bases and as rocket propellants. THE VIPER IS ABOUT THE SIZE OF A GOLF CART AND, UNLIKE OTHER PROBES, HAS FOUR WHEELS INSTEAD OF SIX. However, they are far from the wheels of a normal car.
In fact, each wheel of VIPER can be lifted independently. Although it normally rolls on the moon’s surface, if it encounters soft soil or dust, it picks up a wheel to dig holes with it and sweeps along the moon’s surface. NASA explained that this “swimming-like movement” pulls the probe out of very soft soil.
At the same time, VIPER will be able to handle tilts of up to 15 degrees, and each wheel’s independent steering will give it the ability to drive or rotate horizontally, diagonally. Not only does it give it more flexibility to handle uncertain terrain, it also means it can move in any direction, while keeping its solar panels facing the sun and keeping its scientific instruments in the most useful direction.
But please note that this will not be a quick exploration. The VIPER’s top speed is expected to be only 0.5 mph, which will be cut in half when underwater exploration. In fact, NASA will also use headlights for the first time in VIPER, which will allow it to see darker craters. In addition, the detector is equipped with a variety of spectrometers that can collect samples, evaluate gases, determine the presence of hydrogen, measure temperature, and so on.
It is reported that VIPER is expected to be launched in 2023, and will travel to the moon’s south pole.