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NASA's Moon mission: VIPER - the most advanced rover ever; What will it do, how will it look

By Vishal S
|

New Delhi, Oct 30: NASA's ambitious Moon mission, Artemis, involves sending a rover, which would be called VIPER, to explore the Moon's south pole. Moon's south pole, also known as the dark side of the moon, is unexplored and very little is known about it.

No country has been able to soft-land on Lunar South pole till now. India's Chandrayaan-2 mission came very close to soft-land near the Moon's South Pole in September 2019. But, at the last moment, the lander, Vikram, lost contact with ISRO's ground station. Had things gone as planned, ISRO's lander would have rolled out a rover - Pragyan - near Lunar South Pole.

Here's what Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover or VIPER will do:

 Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover or VIPER

Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover or VIPER

NASA's Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover or VIPER aims to do what India's Chandrayaan-2 had aimed i.e. is to look for water near Lunar South Pole. VIPER will do far more than just looking for water. It is a very advanced rover, in fact, the most advanced ever sent to Moon. VIPER will be able not just to sustain, but collect about 100 days of data. (Text and image courtesy - www.nasa.gov.in)

VIPER testing:

VIPER testing:

The above picture is a VIPER mobility testbed, an engineering model created to evaluate the rover's mobility system. VIPER, is a mobile robot that will roam around the Moon's south pole looking for water ice. The VIPER mission will give surface-level detail of where the water is and how much is available for humans to use. (Text and image courtesy - www.nasa.gov.in)

An artist's concept of the ARTEMIS spacecraft in orbit

An artist's concept of the ARTEMIS spacecraft in orbit

Artemis mission has three phases. The first phase, Artemis-1, would be an uncrewed mission. The objective of this phase, scheduled for 2020, is to test the new rocket, Space Launch System (SLS), and Orion spacecraft together, according to nasa.gov.in.

In the second phase, Artemis-2, the SLS rocket would launch astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft from Earth to lunar orbit. Artemis II is targeted for launch in 2022.

[Chandrayaan-2: 8 things you must know about ISRO's ambitious moon mission]

VIPER is also scheduled to explore South Pole of Moon around December 2022. Artemis program begins a new era where robots and humans working together will push the boundaries of what's possible in space exploration.

Phase-3 - Artemis 3 - NASA will land astronauts on the Moon by 2024 on the Artemis 3 mission and about once a year thereafter, according to nasa.gov.in.

India's rover Pragyan

India's rover Pragyan

ISRO's was aiming at soft-landing near Lunar South pole in Chandrayaan-2 mission. Had the lander - Vikram - successfully touched down, ISRO had designed a rover called Pragyan which was supposed to explore Lunar South Pole. Unfortunately, things did not as planned for ISRO and the soft-landing failed in the very last moment.

[Watch: All you need to know about Pragyan rover's working]

Had Pragyan been successfully deployed, then India could have the first country to not just land, but also to explore Lunar South Pole. VIPER aims to do that now and the NASA has said that data collected during Chandrayaan-2 would help in Artemis which is aiming at landing rover VIPER on Lunar South Pole. However, Prahyan was a basic robotic probe, while VIPER is far more advanced.

(Text and image courtesy - www.nasa.gov.in)

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