An illustration of Mons Mouton, a mesa-like lunar mountain that towers above the landscape carved by craters near the Moon’s South Pole
Image Credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio/Ernie Wright
Published: October 4, 2023

Mons Mouton is the landing site for NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) mission. VIPER will explore the mountain during its approximately 100-day mission as part of NASA’s Artemis missions.

The wide, relatively flat-topped mountain, about the size of the state of Delaware, was created over billions of years by lunar impacts, which sculpted it out of its surroundings. As a result, Mons Mouton stands as tall as Denali – the tallest mountain in North America – approximately 20,000 feet higher than its neighboring features on the Moon’s South Pole. Because it is relatively untouched by bombardments, scientists believe Mons Mouton is much more ancient – possibly billions of years older than its surroundings. A ring of huge craters - evidence of its pulverizing past - lie around its base; some with cliff-like edges, descending into areas of permanent darkness. Its rolling hilltop is peppered with smaller rocks and pebbles as well as lots of enticing craters that are frequently blanketed in freezing, shifting shadows.

VIPER will be the first resource mapping mission beyond Earth. It will search at and below the lunar surface to determine the location and concentration of any ice could eventually be harvested to sustain human exploration on the Moon, Mars, and beyond and will help advance scientific exploration of the Moon by helping to understand how water is created and deposited throughout the solar system.

This image is a visualization made using data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

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