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NASA mission aims to map water ice on moon's south pole for the first time

In this image, a man in a suit holds and speaks into a microphone with the American flag behind him.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine on Oct. 15. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

NASA announced Friday plans to send the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the Moon in Dec. 2022 to study the concentration of water ice.

Why it matters: VIPER will gather data to inform NASA's first global water resource maps of the Moon. The mission's project manager, Daniel Andrews, said VIPER will help answer the question of "if the Moon could really contain the amount of resources we need to live off-world."

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Miriam Kramer: NASA still doesn't know how much water is on the Moon or what form it takes. This mission represents a first step toward helping the space agency characterize that water and figure out exactly what they might need to do to extract it in the future.

Go deeper: All the Moon landings, from Luna to Apollo to Chang'e