NASA’s VIPER Rover Braces for Ultimate Space Challenge

NASA Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) Rover

An artist’s concept of the completed design of NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER. VIPER will get a close-up view of the location and concentration of ice and other resources at the Moon’s South Pole, bringing us a significant step closer to NASA’s ultimate goal of a long-term presence on the Moon – making it possible to eventually explore Mars and beyond. Credit: NASA/Daniel Rutter

NASA’s VIPER team is not only building the rover for the Moon’s South Pole but also preparing for its environmental tests. These tests are designed to simulate the harsh conditions of space travel and lunar operation to ensure the rover’s readiness for its mission.

While NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) team has been focused on building the flight rover that will go to the South Pole of the Moon, the team has also been making preparations for environmental testing of the rover.

In April, the VIPER team passed a System Test Readiness Review, exploring the readiness of the facilities, procedures, and staff to move into stress-testing the VIPER rover.

Engineers Test the VIPER Rover’s Wheels

Engineers test the VIPER rover’s wheel movement and rotation in a clean room at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Credit: NASA/Helen Arase Vargas

These environmental tests are important because they force our rover to experience the conditions it will see during launch, landing, and in the thermal environment of operating at the lunar South Pole. Specifically, acoustic testing will simulate the harsh, vibrational “rock concert” experience of launch, while thermal-vacuum testing will expose VIPER to the hottest and coldest temperatures it will see during the mission, all while operating in the vacuum of space. It’s a tough business, but we have to make sure we’re up for it.

Thanks to this team for the hard efforts to get to this important phase in mission readiness!


– Dan Andrews, VIPER Project Manager

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