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NASA Glenn completes testing for 2023 Moon rover mission

'Viper' will search for water on Moon's south pole
Posted at 4:38 PM, Jun 02, 2022
and last updated 2023-04-27 14:30:38-04

CLEVELAND — Standing eight feet above the ground, NASA’s Moon rover descended off a lunar lander ramp Thursday as part of testing for the upcoming VIPER mission.

VIPER, which stands for NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, is slated as the first U.S.-made robotic rover to land on the Moon.

Jasper Wolfe serves as a mission systems engineer for the VIPER project, a mission to locate water and ice on the moon.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” he said. “It’s an exciting path forward for space exploration and it opens a lot of doors for sustained human presence on the Moon and to venture further out into the solar system.”

Water molecules were first discovered on the Moon in 2020, and this mission is expected to help map out where water exists, how much of it is on the Moon, and help uncover how it got there.

The mission works in tandem with the upcoming Artemis mission, NASA’s program to return to the moon, which is slated to launch its uncrewed mission in August.

Testing at NASA Glenn Research Center Thursday focused on how well VIPER can begin its journey after leaving the lunar lander.

“We’re looking at how we progress down the ramp and is there any slipping,” Wolfe said.

“We hope to have mostly very flat terrain, not many rocks, and be able to drive very fast without too many problems but we have to be prepared to go inside deep craters, big rocks, and steep terrain,” rover systems engineer Arno Rogg said.

VIPER will be transported to the Moon by a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, and a lunar lander named Griffin being built by a Pittsburgh-based company, Astrobotic.

“The lunar lander sits in the payload fairing of the rocket, shoots off, takes us into orbit, releases Griffin lunar lander with Viper atop it, and then we safely land on the lunar surface,” Alivia Chapla at Astrobotic said. “The possibilities are endless. It’s just so important to continue lunar travel. We have to explore and we have to do it.”

VIPER is slated to land on the Moon sometime late next year and spend about 100 days exploring the terrain.