The VIPER robot will be launched to the moon in 2023 by a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket and landed using the Astrobotic Griffin lander.
The VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) will land near the Nobile Crater at the Moon's south pole. From there it is due to explore and map both the surface and the subsurface to identify water and other resources.
View to landing humans once more
It is part of the space agency's Artemis programme, so-called after the mythological sister of Apollo, the first moon mission's namesake. The programme aims to take the first woman and the next man to the lunar surface by 2024, however that particular date is now in question.
Presence of water ice on Moon surface
Back In 2018, scientists confirmed that ice formed by water does exist on the moon’s surface at the darkest and therefore coldest parts of its poles.
Now five years on from that confirmation, VIPER will launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy before reaching that part of the Moon’s surface, which is believed to be one of the coldest areas in our solar system. It will then be landed using the Griffin lander developed by another private company called Astrobotic.
It will land near the Nobile Crater which is thought to have been formed when the Moon collided with another smaller celestial body. Because this crater is almost permanently covered in shadows, ice is able to exist there.