Rover Searches California Desert for Water to Simulate Future Lunar Missions

KREX Rover
KREX Rover

Ames is currently conducting the “Mojave Volatiles Prospector” (MVP) robotic field test to study the use of in-situ prospecting instruments in a real-time robotic surface mission.The field test is designed as a high-fidelity lunar analog mission, with emphasis on field science and “high-tempo” science operations. The experience, lessons learned, and results from MVP will inform development of future robotic missions to prospect for volatiles in permanently shadowed regions on the Moon.

During MVP, the ARC K-REX planetary rover is carrying two: the “Neutron Spectrometer Subsystem” (NSS) and “Near InfraRed and Visible Spectrometer Subsystem” (NIRVSS). A science operations team at ARC is remotely operating K-REX in the Mojave Desert to search for water and to characterize its abundance and distribution in the Mojave. The Mojave Desert has a similar water abundance to the lunar south pole, about 5% water by weight. The field test is supported by the SMD MMAMA program and will complete next week.

MVP is led by Principle Investigator J. Heldmann. The NSS instrument is led by R. Elphic and the NIRVSS instrument is led by PI Colaprete. MVP is supported by multiple Code S personnel including D. Lim, E. Noe, T. Roush, K. Ennico, A. Cook, J.R. Skok, and C. Stoker.