VIPER (rover)

Summary

VIPER
VIPER lunar rover.jpg
Artist's impression of VIPER operating in darkness.
NamesVolatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover
Mission typeExploration, resource prospecting
OperatorNASA
Websitehttps://www.nasa.gov/viper
Mission duration100 days (planned) [1][2][3]
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft typeRobotic lunar rover
ManufacturerNASA Ames Research Center
Dry mass430 kg (950 lb) [4]
Dimensions2.45 m (8 ft 0 in) in height,
1.53 m (5 ft 0 in) in length and width [5]
Start of mission
Launch dateNovember 2023 (planned) [4]
RocketFalcon Heavy
Launch siteKennedy, LC-39A
ContractorSpaceX
Moon rover
Landing dateNovember 2023
Landing siteSouth pole region [2]
Instruments
Neutron Spectrometer System (NSS)
Near InfraRed Volatiles Spectrometer System (NIRVSS)
The Regolith and Ice Drill for Exploring New Terrain (TRIDENT)
Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations (MSolo)
 

VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) is a lunar rover developed by NASA (Ames Research Center), and currently planned to be delivered to the surface of the Moon in November 2023.[4][6] The rover will be tasked with prospecting for lunar resources in permanently shadowed areas in the lunar south pole region, especially by mapping the distribution and concentration of water ice. The mission builds on a previous NASA rover concept called Resource Prospector, which was cancelled in 2018.[7]

On 11 June 2020, NASA awarded Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US$199.5 million to launch VIPER to the lunar south pole by late 2023. VIPER will be carried aboard Astrobotic's Griffin lander as part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. Astrobotic is responsible for end-to-end services for delivery of VIPER, including integration with its Griffin lander, launch from Earth, and landing on the Moon.[8]

Overview

Orbital survey of the Moon taken by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument on India's Chandrayaan-1 orbiter. Blue shows the spectral signature of hydroxide, green shows the brightness of the surface as measured by reflected infrared radiation from the Sun and red shows a mineral called pyroxene.
The image shows the distribution of surface ice at the Moon's south pole (left) and north pole (right) as viewed by NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) spectrometer onboard India's Chandrayaan-1 orbiter.

The VIPER rover, currently in development, will have a size similar to a golf cart (around 1.4 × 1.4 × 2 m), and will be tasked with prospecting for lunar resources, especially for water ice, mapping its distribution, and measuring its depth and purity.[1][2] The water distribution and form must be better understood before it can be evaluated as a potential architectural element within any evolvable lunar or Mars campaign.[9]

The VIPER rover is part of the Lunar Discovery and Exploration Program managed by the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, and it is meant to support the crewed Artemis program.[2] NASA's Ames Research Center is managing the rover project. The hardware for the rover is being designed by the Johnson Space Center, while the instruments are provided by Ames, Kennedy, and Honeybee Robotics.[2] The project manager is Daniel Andrews,[2][10] and the project scientist is Anthony Colaprete, who is implementing the technology developed for the now cancelled Resource Prospector rover.[11] The estimated cost of the mission is US$250 million in October 2019.[3] NASA said on 3 March 2021 that the new lifecycle cost for the mission is US$433.5 million.[12]

The VIPER rover will operate at a south pole region yet to be determined.[1] VIPER is planned to rove several kilometers, collecting data on different kinds of soil environments affected by light and temperature — those in complete darkness, occasional light and in constant sunlight.[13][2] Once it enters a permanently shadowed location, it will operate on battery power alone and will not be able to recharge them until it drives to a sunlit area. Its total operation time will be 100 Earth days.[1][2][3]

Both the launcher and the lander to be used are competitively provided through Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contractors, with Astrobotic delivering the Griffin lander and SpaceX providing the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle.[14] NASA is aiming to land the rover by late 2023.[6]

Science background

Data obtained by the Luna 24, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Chandrayaan-1, and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, revealed that lunar water is distributed widely (if thinly) across the Moon's surface, especially within permanently shadowed craters in the south pole region.[15][16]

Water may have been delivered to the Moon over geological timescales by the regular bombardment of water-bearing comets, asteroids and meteoroids,[17] or continuously produced in situ by the hydrogen ions (protons) of the solar wind impacting oxygen-bearing minerals.[18] The water ice is unlikely to be present in the form of thick, pure ice deposits, but as thin coating on soil grains.[19][20][21]

If it is possible to mine and extract the water molecules (H
2
O
) in large amounts, it can be broken down to its elements, namely hydrogen and oxygen, and form molecular hydrogen (H
2
) and molecular oxygen (O
2
) to be used as rocket bi-propellant or produce compounds for metallurgic and chemical production processes.[22] Just the production of propellant, was estimated by a joint panel of industry, government and academic experts, identified a near-term annual demand of 450 metric tons of lunar-derived propellant equating to 2450 metric tons of processed lunar water, generating US$2.4 billion of revenue annually.[23]

Science payload

The VIPER rover will be equipped with a drill and three analyzers. The Neutron Spectrometer System (NSS), will detect sub-surface water from a distance, then, VIPER will stop at that location and deploy a 1 m (3 ft 3 in) drill called TRIDENT to obtain samples to be analyzed by its two onboard spectrometers:[2][3][24]

Instrument name Abbr. Provider Function[25]
Neutron Spectrometer System
NSS
Ames Research Center (NASA) Detect sub-surface hydrogen (potentially water) from a distance, suggesting prime sites for drilling. It measures the energy released by hydrogen atoms when struck by neutrons. Originally developed for the Resource Prospector rover.[9]
The Regolith and Ice Drill for Exploring New Terrain
TRIDENT
1-m drill will obtain subsurface samples.
Near InfraRed Volatiles Spectrometer System
NIRVSS
Ames Research Center (NASA) Analyze mineral and volatile composition; determine if the hydrogen it encounters belong to water molecules (H2O) or to hydroxyl (OH). Originally developed for the Resource Prospector rover.[9]
Sub-systems: Spectrometer Context Imager (a broad-spectrum camera); Longwave Calibration Sensor (measures surface temperature at very small scales).
Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations
MSolo
Kennedy Space Center (NASA) Analyze mineral and volatile composition. Measures the mass-to-charge ratio of ions to elucidate the chemical elements contained in the sample.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d NASA's VIPER lunar rover will hunt water on the Moon in 2022 Devin Coldewey, The Crunch 25 October 2019 Quote: "VIPER is a limited-time mission; operating at the poles means there's no sunlight to harvest with solar panels, so the rover will carry all the power it needs to last 100 days there"
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i New VIPER Lunar Rover to Map Water Ice on the Moon Sarah Loff, NASA 25 October 2019 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ a b c d Bartels, Meghan (25 October 2019). "NASA Will Launch a Lunar VIPER to Hunt Moon Water in 2022". SPACE.com. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Colaprete, Anthony (17 August 2020). "VIPER: A lunar water reconnaissance mission" (PDF). NASA. Retrieved 25 August 2020. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ "NASA's Next Lunar Rover Progresses Toward 2023 Launch". NASA. 24 February 2021. Retrieved 5 March 2021. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  6. ^ a b Foust, Jeff (26 February 2020). "NASA seeks bids to deliver VIPER lunar lander". SpaceNews. Retrieved 26 February 2020.
  7. ^ Bartels, Meghan (16 October 2019). "Moon VIPER: NASA Wants to Send a Water-Sniffing Rover to the Lunar South Pole in 2022". SPACE.com. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
  8. ^ "NASA Selects Astrobotic to Fly Water-Hunting Rover to the Moon". NASA. 11 June 2020. Retrieved 14 June 2020. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  9. ^ a b c Resource Prospector: Evaluating the ISRU potential of the lunar poles Elphic, Richard; Colaprete, Anthony; Andrews, Daniel; 42nd COSPAR Scientific Assembly Held 14–22 July 2018, in Pasadena, California, Abstract id. B3.1-14-18. July 2018
  10. ^ NASA's VIPER rover will look for water ice on the Moon Mariella Moon, ENGADGET, 26 October 2019
  11. ^ confirms plans to send prospecting rover to the moon. Jeff Foust, SpaceNews 27 October 2019
  12. ^ "VIPER lunar rover mission cost increases". SpaceNews. 3 March 2021. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  13. ^ New VIPER lunar rover to map water ice on the moon Grey Hautaluoma and Alana Johnson, Published by PhysOrg on 28 October 2019
  14. ^ Foust, Jeff (13 April 2021). "Astrobotic selects Falcon Heavy to launch NASA's VIPER lunar rover". SpaceNews. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
  15. ^ NASA Looking to Mine Water on the Moon and Mars By Soderman NASA's Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  16. ^ Pieters, C. M.; Goswami, J. N.; Clark, R. N.; Annadurai, M.; Boardman, J.; Buratti, B.; Combe, J.-P.; Dyar, M. D.; Green, R.; Head, J. W.; Hibbitts, C.; Hicks, M.; Isaacson, P.; Klima, R.; Kramer, G.; Kumar, S.; Livo, E.; Lundeen, S.; Malaret, E.; McCord, T.; Mustard, J.; Nettles, J.; Petro, N.; Runyon, C.; Staid, M.; Sunshine, J.; Taylor, L. A.; Tompkins, S.; Varanasi, P. (2009). "Character and Spatial Distribution of OH/H2O on the Surface of the Moon Seen by M3 on Chandrayaan-1". Science. 326 (5952): 568–572. Bibcode:2009Sci...326..568P. doi:10.1126/science.1178658. PMID 19779151. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  17. ^ Elston, D.P. (1968) "Character and Geologic Habitat of Potential Deposits of Water, Carbon and Rare Gases on the Moon", Geological Problems in Lunar and Planetary Research, Proceedings of AAS/IAP Symposium, AAS Science and Technology Series, Supplement to Advances in the Astronautical Sciences, p. 441
  18. ^ "NASA – Lunar Prospector". lunar.arc.nasa.gov. Archived from the original on 14 September 2016. Retrieved 25 May 2015. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  19. ^ "Mini-RF Monostatic Radar Observations of Permanently Shadowed Crater Floors" L. M. Jozwiak, G. W. Patterson, R. Perkins. Lunar ISRU 2019: Developing a New Space Economy Through Lunar Resources and Their Utilization July 15–17, 2019, Columbia, Maryland
  20. ^ Nozette, Stewart; Spudis, Paul; Bussey, Ben; Jensen, Robert; Raney, Keith (January 2010). "The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Miniature Radio Frequency (Mini-RF) Technology Demonstration". Space Science Reviews. 150 (1–4): 285–302. Bibcode:2010SSRv..150..285N. doi:10.1007/s11214-009-9607-5.
  21. ^ Neish, C. D.; D. B. J. Bussey; P. Spudis; W. Marshall; B. J. Thomson; G. W. Patterson; L. M. Carter (13 January 2011). "The nature of lunar volatiles as revealed by Mini-RF observations of the LCROSS impact site". Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. 116 (E01005): 8. Bibcode:2011JGRE..116.1005N. doi:10.1029/2010JE003647. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  22. ^ "Moon and likely initial in situ resource utilization (ISRU) applications" M. Anand, I. A. Crawford, M. Balat-Pichelin, S. Abanades, W. van Westrenen, G. Péraudeau, R. Jaumann, W. Seboldt; Planetary and Space Science; volume 74; issue 1; December 2012, pp. 42-48 doi:10.1016/j.pss.2012.08.012
  23. ^ Moon Mining Could Actually Work, with the Right Approach Leonard David, SPACE.com 15 March 2019
  24. ^ https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20190029655.pdf Lunar Exploration Science Objectives] S. J. Lawrence, NASA 2019 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  25. ^ Where's the Water? Two Resource-Hunting Tools for the Moon's Surface NASA 10 March 2019 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.