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NASA Rover Viper: Review of the selected moon landing site at the south pole of the moon


After NASA announced where exactly the next US lunar rover will land in two years, doubts remain about the decision. This is reported by the American science magazine Nature. The US space agency had previously made public that the Rover Viper (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) is expected to land near the western edge of the Nobile crater at the south pole of the moon. There it is primarily intended to search for frozen water below the surface, which could be used as a resource for future manned missions. The selected area is one of the coldest areas in the solar system and has yet to be explored closely.

NASA also justified the decision that, based on data from other missions, it was concluded that ice could be found in permanently shadowed areas on the moon. Viper should look for it in the Nobile crater but also in nearby smaller depressions. Even critics of the decision have no doubts that there is water ice in the area, Nature writes. However, it is not at all certain in what form it presents itself there, whether only as a thin layer of frost or in greater quantity, but possibly deep below the surface. It is even possible that Viper cannot find water, explains geoscientist Clive Neal of the University of Notre Dame.

To avoid this scenario, NASA would first have to send another mission to search for water in orbit. This Lunar Trailblazer isn’t expected to start until 2025, years after Viper – although its research director says it should be ready by February 2023. Neal believes it’s a missed opportunity that he won’t take off in front of the rover. and that he should look for a suitable landing site for him. At NASA, they discussed it, but assume that Viper will be successful even without the help. The US space agency is certain that you have enough data. In addition, the rover carries very sensitive instruments and can also find small amounts of water ice. The landing zone was therefore also chosen because it is easy for the rover to explore and the solar panels get enough sunlight there.

Viper is part of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to bring humans back to the moon. This should be prepared, among other things, by rovers and space probes. In 2024, people will land on the moon. Doubts about this are growing, not only because of escalating costs – and the lack of space suits. NASA’s giant SLS rocket, which is intended for lunar mission launches, has yet to complete its first launch, and it likely won’t be this year. Then the space capsule – still unmanned – should be rotated on a route around the moon, with people on board from the second launch. In the third flight, people and equipment are expected to reach the surface of the moon.


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