A team of mission planners at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California is developing high-resolution maps of the lunar surface to enable the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover to safely travel across the moon as VIPER looks for ice and other resources at the lunar South Pole.
The digital elevation maps will show the changing temperature and lighting conditions caused by shadows on the lunar surface and will provide mission planners with information to prevent VIPER from tumbling down the craters, guide the rover toward safe areas and ensure that the vehicle’s batteries stay charged, NASA said Friday.
"We are sending VIPER to one of the Moon’s most dynamic environments, and the rover needs to be able to take what the Moon gives," said Anthony Colaprete, VIPER’s project scientist at Ames Research Center.
"That’s why we are creating these unique maps – at human scale – to help us carefully plan routes for the rover while operating safely and collecting the best science possible,” Colaprete added.
The team is developing the maps of the lunar terrain by processing thousands of satellite images using NASA’s Stereo Pipeline open source software and Pleiades supercomputer combined with a photo processing technique called photoclinometry.
NASA expects to launch the rover in late 2023 as part of the Artemis program.