5 things about NASA’s lunar rover ‘VIPER’ + Newer cars aren’t always better 4 climate

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Why newer cars aren’t always better for the climate

INTRO: Is it better for the climate to go out and buy the latest, most fuel-efficient car, or keep driving the fairly decent car you already own for a little while longer? The answer is probably the latter, a new study suggests.

The study is the latest example of a growing body of research that suggests making do with what you have often constitutes climate action. “Extending the lifetime of new and used [gasoline cars] will be highly important as we make the transition to alternative fuel vehicles,” says study team member Yuya Nakamoto, lecturer in economics at Oita University in Japan. “In other words, we can reduce CO2 emissions just by keeping and driving cars longer.”

A few past studies have also shown that faster replacement of less-efficient with more-efficient cars actually increases greenhouse gas emissions. But those studies essentially assumed that a car was scrapped as soon as its first owner replaced it. The new study is the first to take into account the used car market in combination with the inherent limits to a car’s physical lifespan... (MORE)

Five Things to Know About NASA’s Lunar Rover ‘VIPER’

EXCERPTS: The Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover dubbed VIPER is headed to the moon’s south pole in late 2023 to search for resources that could sustain future human settlements in space. The NASA rover will travel to areas of the lunar surface that have never seen sunlight to map and analyze concentrations of water ice in near real-time. The distribution and availability of water could have big implications for NASA’s Artemis program, which has the goal of returning humans to the moon by 2024.

[...] In September, NASA announced that VIPER will touch down just west of Nobile, a crater near the moon's south pole chosen for its terrain and potential for hosting water. To prepare for that occasion, here are five things you should know about NASA’s first lunar rover:

VIPER’s main purpose is to search for water. Scientists already know that frozen water is trapped at the moon’s south pole from remote sensing data. [...] But exactly where that water is and how it got there remain a mystery. The rover’s meter-long drill will offer an in-depth look at lunar soil that scientists have been limited to assessing remotely. ... Water is a critical resource not just for human consumption, but for space exploration. Water can buffer humans from radiation and can be used to make rocket fuel and breathable oxygen...

[...] VIPER can endure in some of the coldest places in the universe. The rover will look for frozen water ice in the only place the substance could survive on the moon: places where the sun never shines...

[...] VIPER has custom-made tools for the Moon, VIPER will spend part of its time soaking up the energy from its three solar panels, and part of its time using headlights to navigate the craters of the south pole. The rover must maintain enough power to venture into dark craters and to make it back to sunlight before it dies.

Because VIPER is “going to a place that is unlike anything we've explored before,” says Colaprete, “the rover is quite distinct.” The moon’s crater-pocked landscape poses a challenge to the golf-cart-sized rover, which can comfortably cruise a slope of up to 15 degrees and handle a slope of 25 or 30 degrees when necessary. VIPER’s onboard cameras will help rover operators avoid rocks and other hazards, in addition to capturing images of the lunar surface. The mobile robot has four independently controlled wheels, those solar panels and that meter-long drill that will cut samples of lunar soil to be analyzed by onboard spectrometers...

[...] VIPER will hibernate to survive. Because no satellites that could be used to relay communications to Earth orbit the Moon, VIPER needs a direct-to-Earth radio link. That means the rover needs to avoid large landscape features like high mountains or steep crater rims which would block the communication signal. And when the moon’s south pole rotates away from view, which happens for two weeks of every month, the rover must wait out in an identified “safe haven” location until communication can resume...

[...] VIPER will rove in near real-rime. Unlike rovers on Mars missions, VIPER will operate close to Earth, allowing quicker communication. Rovers on Mars took up to 20 minutes to send commands to Earth, while VIPER’s latency will be a mere 6 to 10 seconds.

“The travel time between issuing commands from Earth and the rover receiving that command is just a couple of seconds—think about a laggy cell phone call,” says Gregg. “It's going to be like a video game, almost, being able to drive this thing and react almost immediately to the data and to what you see on the surface.” (MORE - missing details)

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