Curiosity to explore the universe and extraterrestrial life has brought us far. We have had a great number of successful missions in the past and the next one is to search for water ice on Moon with many scientific instruments on board.
NASA’s moon project VIPER, which stands for Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover and is likely to launch in December 2022, would be the next hankering mission to mapping the water ice on the south pole of the planet. This mission will also boost the scientific work to establish the lunar colonies on the moon and solve the major problem of availability of fuel for further space missions.
In simple words, NASA is targeting two major scientific ambitions through this mission. First, confirmation of water ice availability on the surface of the South pole of the moon and mapping the area. In the year 2009, NASAs rocket LCROSS sent the data of possible water ice on the south pole of the moon. Therefore VIPER will confirm the possibilities and quantity of the water ice on the surface of the moon. This study would also confirm extraterrestrial life off Earth. Second, it will also help NASA to establish lunar colonies on the moon in the future. Water is an essential element for sustainable life and availability of water ice on the surface of the moon means long term mission could be possible from the moon’s surface where space scientists can stay for a longer period of time. Splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen will help NASA to use them as breathing air for space landers as well as rocket fuel for further spacecraft missions.
“The key to living on the moon is water — the same as here on Earth,” said Daniel Andrews, project manager of the VIPER mission and director of engineering at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. “Since the confirmation of lunar water ice ten years ago, the question now is if the moon could really contain the number of resources we need to live off-world. This rover will help us answer the many questions we have about where the water is, and how much it is for us to use.”
This rover is equipped with highly advanced technology consisting of MSolo (Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations), the REGOLITH drill and NIRVSS (Near InfraRed Volatiles Spectrometer System), NSS (Neutron Spectrometer System) and TRIDENT terrain. Collecting water ice samples and analysing would help NASA map out the area where the water ice is available. As per NASA, this rover will collect data for 100 days from its landing on the moon.
According to NASA’s scientists VIPER will give the information about the exact location where the water ice is available and how deep below the surface it is. “It’s incredibly exciting to have a rover going to the new and unique environment of the south pole to discover where exactly we can harvest that water,” said Anthony Colaprete, VIPER project scientist, in a NASA statement. “VIPER will tell us which locations have the highest concentrations and how deep below the surface to go to get access to water.”
Earlier India and Israel attempted to reach and study the south of the moon but their mission failed. India’s Chandrayan 2 was a motivational mission which ignited the idea in the mind of NASA to rethink its ambitious moon project. This lunar mission becomes more important for NASA because, under its Artemis programme, NASA is planning to send landers on the south pole of the moon by 2024. This ambitious programme of NASA would write a new chapter in the history of space science. For achieving this milestone, mission VIPER 2022 becomes valuable for sustaining the long presence of landers on the surface of the moon. Studying Mars and beyond would be easier for humans hereafter.
This is the story of VIPER so far. This moon mission of NASA is a unique and a passionate example of humans to discover what lies beyond Earth. Those days are not far when humans will travel to another planet easily and live there. Not us, but our future generations would be the beneficiaries of our hard work.