"Test data will be used to evaluate the traction of the vehicle and wheels, determine the power requirements for a variety of maneuvers and compare methods of traversing steep slopes," NASA said in a statement Monday.
Viper stands for Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover. The rover's purpose is to wheel around the lunar south pole on a hunt for water ice, which it'll also sample. This is the same region of the moon NASA is targeting for its crewed Artemis mission in 2024.
NASA has ambitious plans to return astronauts to the moon and to establish an ongoing human presence there. Local water resources could help sustain that dream.
The Viper engineering model is used to test the technologies and hardware that will go into the finalized machine. NASA is hoping to deliver the golf cart-size rover to the moon in late 2022. NASA will be delighted if it receives an icy welcome.
Beyond Apollo: See NASA aim for the moon with Artemis 2024