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  21 Sep 2021, 10:49

NASA selects Moon site for ice-hunting rover

  WASHINGTON, Sept 21, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - NASA on Monday announced it would

land an ice-seeking rover on a region of the Moon's south pole called the
Nobile Crater in 2023.

   The space agency hopes the robot will confirm the presence of water ice
just below the surface, which could one day be converted into rocket fuel for
missions to Mars and deeper into the cosmos.

   "Nobile Crater is an impact crater near the south pole that was born
through a collision with another smaller celestial body," Lori Glaze,
director of NASA's planetary science division told reporters.

   It is one of the solar system's coldest regions, and has only so far been
probed from afar using sensors such as those aboard NASA's Lunar
Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing
Satellite.

   "The rover is going to get up close and personal with the lunar soil, even
drilling several feet down," said Glazer.

   The robot is called Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or
VIPER.

   Its dimensions are similar to a golf cart -- five feet by five feet by
eight feet (1.5 meters by 1.5 meters by 2.5 meters) and looks somewhat
similar to droids seen in Star Wars. It weighs 950 pounds (430 kilograms).

   Unlike rovers used on Mars, VIPER can be piloted in near real time,
because the distance from Earth is much shorter -- only around 200,000 miles
(300,000 kilometers) or 1.3 light seconds.

   The rover is also faster, topping out at 0.5 mph (0.8 kph).

   Solar-powered VIPER comes with a 50-hour battery, is built to withstand
extreme temperatures, and can "crab walk" sideways so that its panels keep
pointing toward the Sun to maintain charging.

   In terms of the mission's scientific goals, the VIPER team wants to know
how frozen water reached the Moon in the first place, how it remained
preserved for billions of years, how it escapes and where the water goes now.

   The mission is part of Artemis, America's plan to return humans to the
Moon.

   The first crewed mission is technically set for 2024, but will likely take
place significantly later as various aspects are running behind schedule.

 

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