The robot, dubbed the VIPER rover, will be the first lunar rover to use headlights to help explore permanently shadowed regions of the Moon.
These areas have not seen sunlight in billions of years and are some of the coldest spots in the solar system, according to the DPA agency.
Powered by solar power, VIPER will have to maneuver quickly around extreme changes of light and dark at the lunar south pole.
“The data received from VIPER has the potential to help our scientists determine precise locations and concentrations of ice on the Moon and will help us assess the environment and potential resources at the lunar south pole in preparation for the Artemis astronauts.” Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Sciences Division at the Agency’s Washington headquarters, said in a statement.
NASA awarded a work order to Astrobotic, a private space robotics company, for the launch, transit and delivery of VIPER to the lunar surface as part of the Agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative.
Once on the Moon, the rover will explore the lunar craters using a specialized set of wheels and a suspension system to cover a variety of slopes and types of ground, the agency DPA reported.
The rover design significantly improves on an old robotic concept for exploring the Moon called Resource Prospector, which NASA canceled in early 2018.
Since then, the duration of the VIPER mission has been extended from one to three lunar days (100 Earth days), allowing for more data collection on the lunar surface.
VIPER will carry four instruments: the hammer drill (Trident), a mass spectrometer (MSolo), an infrared spectrometer (Nirvss) and a neutron spectrometer (NSS).
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