NASA researchers shared the landing and exploration site of its VIPER lunar ice survey during a Monday teleconference with journalists. Director of NASA Headquarters' Planetary Science Division, Lori Glaze announced that VIPER will land at the moon’s southern pole along the western edge "Relay crater".
It was difficult to choose the landing site because of so many factors. Mission control "considered key parameters, such as Earth visibility to send communications to the moon from Earth, and terrain that's easy for the rover navigate through. And most importantly, the expected presence ice or other resources." Glaze stated, "while analysing all these constraints, one study region emerged ahead of all others, maximising science return and flexibility to ensure mission success once Viper has reached the moon."
The VIPER rover will investigate at least six sites over a 100-day period. These potential sites cover 10 to 15-miles of lunar surfaces. It will also explore one of the coldest regions in the solar system. This includes permanently-shadowed, potentially water-ice-containing craters.
"We don't really know where the water is so we had the challenge of finding a place that could cover significant distances. This included areas with temperatures that ranged from 50 Kelvin temperature in permanently shadowed craters to those that reached 110 Kelvin and then up to 250 Kelvin. We want to explore the whole range of thermal environments.