NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER), soon to land on the lunar surface, has endured one of the trickiest parts of its mission. In a recent update, the agency revealed that engineers at the Glenn Research Center performed the most realistic test of the rover landing on the Moon. The test essentially involved lifting the rover off its Astrobotic Griffin lunar lander, a platform that will be elevated a few feet above the surface.
VIPER is scheduled to land on the Moon in 2023 at the lunar south pole for a 100-day mission. Its objective will be to map the Nobile crater and its unexplored regions and to conclude if ice or any other potential resource exists in these areas. These resources, if found, could help sustain astronauts on future Artemis lunar missions.
NASA Glenn performs the most realistic rover tests
(Viper being chased from the Astrobotic Griffin lunar lander; Image: NASA)
The tests were realistic in the sense that the engineers used the latest prototype lander and a robotic prototype of the lunar rover. The purpose of the test was to verify whether VIPER is able to handle deployment on the lunar surface. During the test, the mission team dismantled the rover’s heaviest components to make it lighter. This was done to accurately simulate the conditions found on the lunar surface since the Moon has less gravity.
NASA said this test version of VIPER helped the team verify that every aspect of the system works as expected and that the results would be used when the rover actually lands on the Moon.
Exciting tests await VIPER
Needless to say, the rover will undergo many more tests before the robotic explorer is fine-tuned for its mission. NASA has revealed that the rover will now undergo a Regolith testbed at NASA’s Ames Research Center, home to a facility capable of realistically replicating the lighting and dusty terrain of the Moon’s environment. . Earlier this year, another prototype of the lunar rover was tested at Glenn’s SLOPE facility to prepare for soft ground and obstacles the rover may encounter. Learn more about the test here.