The United States aims to send astronauts to the Moon in 2024, but before this expedition, unmanned missions will be carried out, like the lunar rover. The module was unveiled in testing by the United States Space Agency.
Called VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover), the mobile robot was designed for the exploration of the South Pole of the Moon, sheltering ice. It will therefore be the first device to take samples of water, in the form of ice, if the mission comes to fruition. Since 1972, the Artemis 3 mission, which is scheduled for 2024, should be the first manned lunar mission.
The real rover will not be used by NASA for testing. A model with identical dimensions (1.4 m in length and width for 2 m in height) will take its place. It will be tested at an agency research center in Cleveland, Ohio. Engineers will collect data on the vehicle’s traction as well as that of its wheels. They will compare the various methods for crossing steep slopes and determine the power that will be required to carry out certain maneuvers.
In order to facilitate the study of these parameters, the United States Space Agency has made a reproduction of the surface of the Moon in its laboratory. VIPER evolves inside an earthen tank, imitating the lunar terrain. According to NASA’s explanations, the creation on Earth of a material corresponding exactly to the ground found on Mars or on the Moon is impossible, given the difference in atmospheric conditions with other planets (gravity, moisture content, pressure of air, temperature).
Four scientific instruments, including a 1 m drill to take samples from the basement, will be shipped by VIPER. The objective of this mission is to better understand the water resources on the Moon. This information is fundamental for the possible installation of a base on the satellite. NASA hopes to launch VIPER in December 2022.