NASA’s four-wheeled lunar vehicle VIPER, which is being developed, has booked a trip to space in 2023, but it needs some devices to illuminate its destination at the moon’s south pole,media CNET reported. NASA last week shared a behind-the-scenes look at how it developed “the first ever rover lighting system.” The VIPER team tested prototype headlights similar to cars at a NASA test site at the Ames Research Center in California designed to simulate the lunar landscape.
The Volatiles Survey Polar Exploration Vehicle (VIPER) will look for water ice and collect soil samples, but it needs to avoid what NASA describes as “potentially deadly hazards” such as boulders. It also needs an aid to navigate steep, dark craters. VIPER’s lighting targets are well combined with NASA’s exact evidence of water on the moon and how water is found in dark places.
“Whether it’s a rover or the next lunar rover, poor lighting means drivers can’t see the details in the landscape. We have to pay special attention to these challenges on the moon, because once VIPER arrives there, it will never come back. VIPER team member Uland Wong said in a NASA statement.
The team is using LED arrays mounted on masts, some of which will be able to project concentrated beams of light, while others will illuminate larger areas. NASA tested the prototype lighting system in simulated lunar landscapes under different types of conditions expected on the moon. The team took photos to compare images and help narrow the design of future lunar vehicles.
VIPER is part of NASA’s ambitious re-exploration of the moon, which includes sending astronauts back to the moon in 2024 through the Artemis program.
NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has captured nighttime images with a small LED device. VIPER will operate on different levels, capable of flooding the surrounding environment with light and bringing some much-needed brightness to dark situations.