See NASA's new lunar rover test out its 'moon shimmy' on Earth

The water-hunting Viper moon rover will investigate the Artemis landing region before NASA astronauts arrive.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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This engineering model will help NASA with the final design for the Viper lunar rover. 

NASA / Bridget Caswell, Alcyon Technical Services

NASA has what amounts to a moon sandbox at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. The agency took a model of its new Viper rover out to play in conditions that mimic the lunar surface. 

"We call this maneuver the 'Moon shimmy,'" NASA's Ames Research Center team tweeted Monday, along with a video showing the rover wiggling its wheels in a large soil bin filled with lunar simulant. 

"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.

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