An artist's concept of VIPER, a mobile robot that will roam around the Moon’s south pole looking for water ice. (Credits: NASA Ames/Daniel Rutter)

As part of the Artemis program, NASA is planning to send its first mobile robot to the Moon in late 2023 in search of ice and other resources on and below the lunar surface. Data from the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) would help the agency map resources at the lunar South Pole that could one day be harvested for long-term human exploration at the Moon.

VIPER’s design calls for using the first headlights on a lunar rover to aid in exploring the permanently shadowed regions of the Moon. These areas haven’t seen sunlight in billions of years and are some of the coldest spots in the solar system. Running on solar power, VIPER will need to quickly maneuver around the extreme swings in light and dark at the lunar South Pole.