NASA just did a test run on its Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER. The golf-cart sized rover is being made by the agency to hopefully find water on the moon. The engineering model of the rover was tested at the Simulated Lunar Operations Laboratory (SLOPE) at the Glenn Research Center.
SLOP allows engineers to test the traction of the rover’s wheels and compare different methods of traversing a moon-like surface in differently angled surfaces. These tests will also help the engineers determine the power requirement for different types of maneuvers. The engineering model is probably not the actual rover itself, but a differently weighted simulation of it in order to simulate the same weight ratio to the surface of Earth.
The rover is expected to be launched in December 2022 towards the lunar south pole, the same place where the Artemis crew will eventually land. The goal of the rover is to collect samples and analyze them to determine if the Moon has enough water to sustain humans. NASA confirmed the existence of water-ice 10 years ago, but the goal is to collect water in its liquid form.
To get the precise mapping of water on the moon’s surface, VIPER is equipped with a meter-long drill named TRIDENT (The Regolith and Ice Drill for Exploring New Terrain). TRIDENT will help retrieve samples from the ground for other instruments to analyze.
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