NASA plans to launch a new rover to explore the surface of the moon in 2023. The rover is called the Volatile Investigating Polar Exploration Rover or VIPER. NASA has now announced the chosen landing spot for the VIPER rover, and it will be near the western edge of the Nobile Crater on the south pole of the moon.
The rover will explore the surface of that region of the moon and investigate the subsurface for water and other resources needed for long-term missions. VIPER is part of the NASA Artemis missions and will be launched to the moon using a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. The rover will be delivered to the moon using Astrobiotic’s Griffin lander as part of the NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative.
This particular area of the moon is unexplored, and NASA points out that it’s one of the coldest areas in the entire solar system. Furthermore, this region has only been explored using remote sensing instruments, such as those aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite. Data gathered by those missions helped scientists decide that ice and other resources likely exist in permanently shadowed areas near the moon’s poles.
During its selection process, NASA considered multiple landing sites and chose the mountainous area west of Nobile Crater due to the rover-accessible terrain and multiple nearby sites of scientific interest. In addition, VIPER will provide what NASA calls ground truth measurements concerning the presence of water and other resources in the area.
Data gathered by the rover will also provide new information to lunar scientists helping to gain additional insight into the regions of our satellite. Data will also help NASA prepare for future missions to the moon, providing more understanding of the lunar environment in unexplored areas.