Exciting developments are underway at NASA as they seek to gain a deeper understanding of the Moon and its resources. The Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) will serve as NASA’s first mobile robot mission to the Moon. The mission will last 100 days and begin later this year, starting its research in the South Pole. The mission's goal is to identify resource areas of ice and other minerals.

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What is the VIPER?
The Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) will be used to locate resources on and below the Moon’s surface. It will be relatively the size of a golf cart and powered by solar energy. Due to the uncertainty of the Moon’s surface, the rover will have the functionality to drive in all directions (moving forward, backward, sideways, and diagonally).

The robot is also equipped with a drill to take samples and measurements of the soil. NASA engineers have also been experimenting with Artificial Intelligence (AI) to accompany the rover’s capabilities. While the VIPER will not primarily rely on AI, it will use it as a tool. The rover’s AI system is called the System Health Enabled Real-time Planning Advisor and will allow the team to map out routes and spot potential risks.

"VIPER will search Earth’s Moon for ice and other potential resources."

Tenacity in light of challenges
Here at Grand Universe, we often say that tenacity is a superpower. The scientists at NASA certainly demonstrate this, as they are working hard to push past the challenges that come with this mission.

As a solar-powered robot, the NASA team has had to consider a lot of factors when planning and building the rover. One of the biggest challenges is navigating the extremities of hot temperatures in the sunlight and cold temperatures in the shadowed areas. If the robot cannot withstand the temperatures from the sun, it will overheat and break down. Likewise, if the robot ends up in shadowed area for too long, it will freeze, and the team will be unable to complete the mission.

Beyond the initial mission
Once the ice and mineral resource areas are identified and assessed for sustainability, the VIPER team wants to develop a resource map with the data acquired on the mission. The map would outline where to find water and how deep it goes into the Moon’s surface. Furthermore, this research will set the stage for learning more about the resources on other planets. As NASA plans these other long-term missions, they want to make sure astronauts have easy access to resources on the Moon. After all, it would be much easier for astronauts to get these extra essentials from the Moon instead of traveling all the way back to Earth.

Grand Universe to instill a passion for robotics
Here at Grand Universe, we want to encourage this type of passion and resilience in our mission to ignite lifelong learning among all ages. One of the ways we look forward to doing that is through our robotics center. This center, accompanied by other courses and programs we will offer, will give guests a variety of hands-on opportunities to explore the wonders of science, space, and technology. Students will be able to write code, control robot behaviors, and explore computer algorithms. This unique approach will enhance their understanding and proficiency in coding and the world of robotics as a whole.

Stay tuned as we keep you up-to-date on the VIPER journey and our upcoming robotics center in development! Subscribe for the latest news.

SOURCES:
NASA Blog
NASA Viper Mission
NASA Viper Mission in-depth

 

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