Building a mission canceled last year, NASA is developing a mobile robot named VIPER to launch in 2022 for the exploration of water ice at the south pole of the moon, the same region the agency aims to to land astronauts by 2024.
The $ 250 million Rover mission, designed by engineers and scientists at three NASA centers in California, Florida and Texas, will be delivered to the south pole of the Moon from commercial land.
For the size of a golf cart, the Volatile, which explores the polar explorer, will walk a few miles on the moon's surface, using its four tools to examine the polar landscape and analyze the water content of the lunar soil.
"The key to living on the moon is water – as here on Earth," said Daniel Andrews, project manager for the VIPER mission and director of engineering at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. "After the confirmation of lunar water ice ten years ago, the question now is whether the moon can really contain the amount of resources we need to live outside the world. This rover will help us answer the many questions we have about where the water is and how much there is for us to use. "
NASA formally submitted plans for the South Pole lunar rover on October 25, shortly after VIPER passed the Mission Requirement Review by an independent NASA Review Committee, agency officials said. With the mission requirements already established, the VIPER team prepares for a preliminary review of the project next year, preparing for launch and delivery to the lunar surface in December 2022.
"This ambitious timeline was made possible by previous extensive technical work, "Resource Prospector," said team members in response to questions from Spaceflight Now.
The Resource Prospector, consisting of a NASA-developed lander and rover, was canceled last year as the agency highlighted a new commercial approach to the moon NASA selected nine companies last November to compete for contracts for the delivery of scientific payloads to the moon using new commercially-developed robotic perches.
The VIPER rover will ride to the moon for privately-owned property purchased through commercial services at Lunar Payload Services,
The rover will be about the size of a golf cart and will weigh about 770 pounds (350 kilograms), officials said.
During a 100-day mission, VIPER will scout the same landing area for human beings in 2024 from NASA's Artemis program.
"NASA's VIPER Priority will be a region that contains a number of terrains offering different temperatures and light conditions to fully understand the nature of the water and volatile matter in it," the VIPER team wrote in response to questions sent via e-mail. "The landing places for people who have people have different specifications, driven by the specific needs of the human mission."
In March, Vice President Mike Pence challenged NASA to land the first woman and next man on the south pole of the moon from the end of 2024 Since then, the agency has been fast-tracking the development of new human-rated troops to make a human return to the moon within five years.
NASA plans to select up to four companies by the end of this year or early 2020 to begin rating farmland development. By the end of next year, NASA intends to select two of the companies to embark on full development for landing missions in 2024 and 2025.
But this timetable suggests that Congress allocates funding to cover the multibillion-dollar lunar acceleration costs program from its previous 2018 landing date
According to NASA's current planning, the spacecraft launch system and the Orion crew capsule will launch an unmanned test flight in 2021, followed by a mission around the moon so the next mission SLS / Orion. Astronauts on a third SLS / Orion mission, assigned to Artemis 3, would attempt to land on the moon after a landing rendezvous that had already been launched into a commercial rocket orbit. poles using a NASA-funded Chandray spacecraft instrument operating in lunar orbit from November 2008 to August 2009.
NASA collapsed a satellite and a Centaur rocket rocket near the south pole in 2009. Collected data from this mission discovers lunar materials dug by the impact of contained water, giving scientists another point for data to confirm the presence of ice in the polar regions of the moon.
The water ice of the moon may be used by future missiles to generate rocket fuel. , breathing air and other resources.
"It's incredibly exciting to take a rover to the new and unique environment of the South Pole to find exactly where we can get that water," says Anthony Colapret, a scientist at the VIPER project at Ames at NASA's Research Center VIPER. "VIPER will tell us which sites have the highest concentrations and how deep below the surface to go to gain access to water."
VIPER will wear a neutron spectrometer to sense the presence of water below the moon's surface and provide training from Honeybee Robotics will collect samples from depths to meters or more than 3 feet for analysis using onboard instruments.
Send e-mail to author.  Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1 .