NASA unveils moon site for ice-hunting rover
NASA on announced it would land an ice-seeking rover on a region of the Moon’s south pole called the Nobile Crater in 2023. The space agency hopes the robot will confirm the presence of water ice just below the surface, which could one day be converted into rocket fuel for missions to Mars and deeper into the cosmos.
The ice-hunting Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) is to land just west of Nobile Crater, which sits near the moon’s south pole, NASA officials announced. In late 2023, VIPER will fly to the moon aboard Griffin, a lander built by Pittsburgh-based company Astrobotic that will launch atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.
“The data VIPER returns will provide lunar scientists around the world with further insight into our moon’s cosmic origin, evolution, and history. It will also help inform future Artemis missions to the moon and beyond by enabling us to better understand the lunar environment in these previously unexplored areas hundreds of thousands of miles away,” Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said.
NASA has awarded $199.5 million to Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic to deliver VIPER to the moon. Astrobotic, in turn, has selected a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to launch the mission. NASA has budgeted a little over $600 million for the effort.
The first crewed mission is technically set for 2024, but will likely take place significantly later as various aspects are running behind schedule.