VIPER project manager Daniel Andrews said:
"The key to living on the Moon is water – the same as here on Earth. Since the confirmation of lunar water-ice ten years ago, the question now is if the Moon could really contain the amount of resources we need to live off -world. This rover will help us answer the many questions we have about where the water is, and how much there is for us to use. "
NASA crashed a rocket into the Moon's south pole back in 2009 and was able to detect the presence of water ice. VIPER's mission is to help us zero in on the water's location and understand its nature, so we can make plans on how to access and harness it in the future.
The rover will roam several miles to find wet areas below the surface using an instrument called the Neutron Spectrometer System. Whenever it does find one, it will deploy its drill called The Regolith and Ice Drill for Exploring New Terrain or TRIDENT to dig for samples. Its other two instruments – the Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations or MSolo and the Near InfraRed Volatiles Spectrometer System – will then analyze the samples to figure out their composition and concentration of water ice or other resources we can potentially harness.
While there's no exact launch date yet, NASA is planning to deliver the rover to the lunar surface in December 2022.