Almost half a century had passed since the last time when humans laid foot on the Moon. It seems like an eternity, but the Artemis program of NASA plans to return astronomers to our natural satellite by 2024 or so. But until that glorious moment, scientists could use any extra data about the Moon that they can get.
Astrobotic of Pittsburgh, PA was selected by NASA to deliver the future VIPER rover (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) to the Moon.
What will VIPER be doing on the Moon
This VIPER contract is a payload assignment for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative. The Astrobotic Peregrine lander will land at the Lacus Mortis area in 2021, which is a plain of basaltic lava flows from the northeastern part of the Moon.
VIPER’s mission is mainly to help NASA with the upcoming Artemis Program. The scientific knowledge gained by the rover will also assist the American space agency for better selecting the landing sites within the Artemis moon program.
But the good news doesn’t stop, as VIPER will also search for traces of water on the lunar surface. The presence of liquid water is the best indicator of the potential of an environment to harbor life. Various people even speculated that the reason for why astronomers didn’t go to the Moon for such a long time since 1972 is that they encountered some hostile life forms on our natural satellite.
NASA’s Administrator Jim Bridenstine also speaks about the importance of VIPER:
Commercial partners are changing the landscape of space exploration, and VIPER is going to be a big boost to our efforts to send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface in 2024 through the Artemis program,
If all goes according to the plan, the Artemis program will prove itself to be the best motivator for a further trip to Mars.