During a teleconference with journalists on Monday, NASA researchers unveiled the definitive landing and reconnaissance site for its upcoming VIPER lunar ice survey. Lori Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA’s headquarters, has announced that the VIPER mission will land along the western edge of ‘Relay Crater’ at the south pole of the planet.
The decision to choose this landing site has brought a number of competing factors into balance. Mission control “considers critical parameters, such as the visibility of the earth – for communication from the moon to the earth – sunlight terrain well suited for the rover to pass through, and most importantly, of course, the expected presence of ice and other resources, “Glaze explains,” while analyzing all of these limitations, one study area came out ahead of the rest, maximizing scientific yield and flexibility to ensure the mission’s success once Viper is on the moon. “
During its 100-day mission, the VIPER rover is expected to explore at least six possible sites covering 10 to 15 square miles of lunar surface through one of the coldest areas in our solar system studied to date. This includes craters that are permanently in the shade, which have a good probability of containing water ice.
‘We really do not know where the water is, so we had to find a place where we could cover considerable distances – and significant distances I mean tens of kilometers – that go in and out of thermal regimes, which include everything from craters permanently in the shadow was literally 50 Kelvin temperatures to areas that transitioned to a gentle 110 Kelvin, and then up to 250 Kelvin, ‘said Anthony Colaprete, chief project scientist at NASA Ames, during the call. “We want to study the whole range of thermal environments.”
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