To the moon and beyond!
NASA is aiming to build a permanent crew station on the Moon and has already started making necessary preparations for the next big rover mission. But don’t get too excited just yet, NASA is just launching its golf-cart-sized robot to the Moon before it can begin the permanent settling of residents on the lunar surface.
The rover named VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover will spend a total of 100 days analyzing and mapping out different water sources on the lunar south pole which will be the first survey of its kind. With a space station on the Moon, NASA plans to start its first human missions to Mars as early as the 2030s so this is a major step for the space agency.
Direct flights from Earth to Mars require a lot of propellants which is not possible for a rocket to carry while lifting off from Earth. By dividing the journey into two phases; from Earth to the Moon and then Moon to Mars, it’ll be easier for astronauts to fuel up on the lunar station before completing their journey to the red planet. “Where there’s water, there’s fuel,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “That could well be a gas station for us in the future.“
On Monday, NASA announced a landing site for VIPER to start its search for the gas station in a mountainous region adjacent to the Moon’s Nobile Crater. The reason for choosing this specific region is that since it’s high up in a mountain range, it’ll be easier to communicate with the rover from Earth. “We wanted to broadly understand a range of environments on the Moon. The Nobile region offered that.“
The rover is set to leave Earth in 2023 and will be NASA’s first Moon rover in over 50 years. Hopefully, it’ll make a safe landing in the exceptionally shadowy region of the Moon without crashing.