NASA's VIPER team puts the newest Moon rover prototype through its paces

Devdiscourse News Desk | California | Updated: 06-07-2022 13:11 IST | Created: 06-07-2022 13:11 IST
NASA's VIPER team puts the newest Moon rover prototype through its paces
Image Credit: Twitter (@NASA)

NASA's Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) is planned for delivery to the lunar surface in late 2023. It is a mobile robot that will land at the South Pole of the Moon to get a close-up view of the location and concentration of water ice, bringing the agency a significant step closer to its ultimate goal of a long-term presence on the Moon.

Recently, the mission team completed a fantastic series of tests with its lunar delivery CLPS vendor, Astrobotic, at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, where the newest VIPER Moon Gravitation Representative Unit - MGRU3 - prototype rover was rolled down the Griffin lander rampways.

According to Dan Andrews, VIPER Project Manager, the prototype rover has a flight-like driving system and imaging systems, with an attached dummy mass, to recreate the center of gravity of the actual VIPER lunar rover.

The teams attempted both normal egressing (where all conditions are ideal), as well non-ideal conditions – all with the hope of learning more about how VIPER could behave during the mission. The testing also revealed areas to improve the ramps themselves, based on how they interacted with the rover's wheels.

According to NASA, during VIPER's exploration of the Moon, the rover will endure extreme temperature conditions, dynamic lighting and complex terrain, while near-real-time rover driving will present new engineering and design challenges the team must overcome.

During the recent test, the VIPER drivers learned how to understand the environment through the eyes of the rover, decreasing mission risk. In the future, more tests will take place in the Regolith Testbed at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley, a facility capable of realistically reproducing the lighting and dusty terrain of the Moon's environment.

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