Monday, May 24, 2021

NASA Announces Mssion To Send Rover To MOON in 2023

NASA Announces, $433.5 Million Mission, to send Rover to the Moon in 2023 to Scout Out potential Landing Sites, for a Crewed Artemis Mission, a year later, and find Sources of Water.

The Space Agency plans to send the Rover, named the Volatiles Investigating Polar Explorat ion Rover (VIPER), to Explore the Lunar South Pole, where it will look for Water Ice and other Resources that could be Harvested by Humans and Scout the Terrain for the Future Crewed Mission. The First Woman and Next Man are expected to Land in the same Region in 2024 as part of the Artemis Mission, the First Crewed Landing, on the Moon, since 1972.

VIPER Specs:

- The First Rover with Headlights on the Moon, helping it Explore Regions of our Natural Satellite that have been in Permanent Darkness for Billions of years.

- The Golf-Cart sized Vehicle, is 5 feet by 5 feet by 8 feet and 950 Pounds, will spend Three Lunar Days on the Surface, or about 100 Earth Days, handling unknown Terrain and Temperatures varying by 500F.

- The Rover is part of the wider Artemis Mission aimed at making Lunar Exploration Sustainable, rather than a Series of One-Off Trips like the Apollo-era Missions.

- The Landing Site is South Pole of the Moon.

- The Distance Goal is 12 miles.

- Onboard Iinstruments: Will carry Four instruments, 3 Spectrometers and a 3.28 ft Drill. The Regolith and Ice Drill for Exploring New Terrains (TRIDENT) Hammer Drill and the Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations (MSolo) Instrument. It also includes the Near Infrared Volatiles Spectrometer System (NIRVSS) and the Neutron Spectrometer System (NSS).

- Power: Solar-Ccharged Battery, Peak Power of 450 watts

- Top Speed: 0.5 mph

- Communications: X-band Direct-to-Earth, No Relay, over the Deep Space Network.

- Data from the VIPER, will help the Agency Map Resources at the Lunar South Pole.

- NASA's Investment in the Rover for Mission Development Costs and Operations is $433.5 million. The current Delivery Contract value for Astrobotic to deliver VIPER to the Moon through CLPS is approximately $226.5 million.

The Agency says these Resources could one day be Harvested for Long-Term Human Exploration at the Moon and even used by a Permanent Settlement. The VIPER will Explore areas that haven't seen Sunlight in Billions of years and are some of the Coldest Spots in the Solar System.

The data received from VIPER has the potential to aid our scientists in determining precise locations and concentrations of ice on the Moon, said NASA Director of the NASA Planetary Science Division, Lori Glaze. She added that it will help us evaluate the environment and potential resources at the lunar south pole in preparation for Artemis astronauts. This is yet another example of how robotic science missions and human exploration go hand in hand, and why both are necessary as we prepare to establish a sustainable presence on the Moon. she said.

Once on the Moon, VIPER will explore Lunar Craters using a Specialised Set of Wheels and Suspension System to cover a Variety of Inclines and Soil types. The Rover's Design significantly builds on a Former Robotic Concept to Prospect the Moon called, Resource Prospector, which NASA Canceled in early 2018. Since then, the VIPER Mission has been Launched and Expands on Prospector in a number of ways, including Mission Duration. This has been Extended from the Originally proposed One Lunar day, or about 29 Earth days, to Three Lunar Days or about 100 Earth days.

The VIPER Team faces some New Challenges Operating a Rover on the Moon, different from those Tackled by previous Rover Missions to Mars:

- Extreme Temperatures: The Rover's Hardware will have to handle Temperatures varying by as much as 500 Degrees Fahrenheit.

- Real-time Drivers: Drivers will be able to 'live operate' the Rover due to Minimal Delay but they will have to Drive-Over Complex Terrain in real time.-

- Drivers will have to operate in Places where there are No good 'Scouting' Images from Orbit.

- Mobility: NASA can't be exactly sure what the Soil in the Moon's Polar Regions will be like, Hard and Compacted, Fluffy, or Somewhere-in-Between. So VIPER is Designed for Uunprecedented Agility.

- Complex Route Planning: The Extreme swings in Light and Dark at the Poles of the Moon are nothing like those on Earth or Mars, and produce Extremely Long and Fast-moving Shadows. The Solar-Powered VIPER: must Retreat from these Advancing Shadows as it seeks out the Right Territory to sample.

NASA can't be exactly sure what the Soil in the Moon's Polar Regions will be like, Hard and Compacted, Fluffy, or somewhere in between. So VIPER is designed for unprecedented Agility.

The VIPER can Drive Sideways or Diagonally, Spin in a Circle and move, in Any Direction, without Changing the Way it's facing. If it encounters Soft Soils, it will even be able to Walk its Wheels by moving each Wheel Independently to Free itself. The Moon is much Closer to Earth than Mars, so there will be little Delay when Transmitting Commands to the Rover. That means Drivers on Earth can operate VIPER Interactively. With a lot of Ground to cover on a Tight Schedule over Complex Terrain, the Drivers' Efforts will be Key. Because of the Dim-to-Dark Lighting at the South Pole, Drivers will have to Operate in Places where we do Not have good 'scouting' Images from Orbit. Computer Simulations of the Mission will allow them to Practice this Critical Operation before Launch.

NASA launch Partners will send Test Versions of the same Instruments to Mars within the next Two years to Test how they work and Improve Performance Data. The Mass Spectrometer, Volatiles Spectrometer, and Neutron Spectrometer are slated to arrive via Astrobotic's First Flight later this year.

The Lunar South Pole is a Site of Interest for Scientists and Agencies Planning Crewed Missions to the Moon. This is because Water Ice has been Found in Shadowed areas in that Region with Craters that Never get Sunlight. The Water Ice and Volatile Deposits are found in the Cold Traps that are Shaded from Sunlight.

There have been Orbital Observations of the Region including by: China, India, NASA, and Russia, with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Mapping the Entire Region to help Future Astronauts.

This is part of the NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLIPS) Deliveries, a $2.6 Billion Project that will see the NASA work with a Range of Tech Firms, large and Small, to send Payloads to the Moon for the Artemis Mission. Versions of TRIDENT and MSolo will Ride to the Moon in late 2022 aboard the Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment (PRIME-1) Technology Demonstration. This is being delivered by Intuitive Machines on its Second CLIPS Flight.

'VIPER will be the most capable robot NASA has ever sent to the lunar surface and allow us to explore parts of the Moon we've never seen' said Sarah Noble, Program Scientist for VIPER at NASA Headquarters. The rover will teach us about the origin and distribution of water on the Moon and prepare us to harvest resources 240,000 miles from Earth that could be used to safely send astronauts even farther into space, including Mars.

Throughout the Artemis Program, NASA will send Robots and Humans to Explore more of the Moon than ever before.

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