NASA has now chosen the landing site for its VIPER rover, in a relatively flat area about 85 miles from the Moon’s south pole and near the western edge of Nobile Crater (pronounced No-BEEL-e).
The white rectangle on the overview map to the right shows the landing zone. The green cross on the rim of Shackleton Crater marks the South Pole. The red outlines inside craters are regions that are believed to be permanently shadowed, and thus locations that might have water ice within them. Additionally, the data suggests there are a handful of small areas inside craters within the landing zone that might also have ice.
From the press release:
The area VIPER will study in the Nobile region covers an approximate surface area of 36 square miles (93 square kilometers), 10 to 15 miles (16 to 24 km) of which VIPER is expected to traverse through during the course of its mission. During this time, the rover will visit carefully chosen areas of scientific interest that will provide further insight into a wide array of different kinds of lunar environments. The VIPER team will look to characterize ice and other resources in these areas using VIPER’s sensors and drill.
The mission’s planned lifespan is presently set at 100 days. While the Moon’s day/night is 28 days long, the rover will likely see little darkness, since at this very high latitude the Sun will simply circle the sky near the horizon.
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