NASA on Monday announced it would land an ice-seeking rover on a region of the Moon's south pole called the Nobile Crater in 2023.
The space agency hopes the robot will confirm the presence of water ice just below the surface, which could one day be converted into rocket fuel for missions to Mars and deeper into the cosmos.
"Nobile Crater is an impact crater near the south pole that was born through a collision with another smaller celestial body," Lori Glaze, director of NASA's planetary science division told reporters.
It is one of the solar system's coldest regions, and has only so far been probed from afar using sensors such as those aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite.
"The rover is going to get up close and personal with the lunar soil, even drilling several feet down," said Glazer.
The robot is called Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER.
Its dimensions are similar to a golf cart -- five feet by five feet by eight feet (1.5 meters by 1.5 meters by 2.5 meters) and looks somewhat similar to droids seen in Star Wars. It weighs 950 pounds (430 kilograms).
Unlike rovers used on Mars, VIPER can be piloted in near real time, because the distance from Earth is much shorter -- only around 200,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) or 1.3 light seconds.
The rover is also faster, topping out at 0.5 mph (0.8 kph).
Solar-powered VIPER comes with a 50-hour battery, is built to withstand extreme temperatures, and can "crab walk" sideways so that its panels keep pointing toward the Sun to maintain charging.
In terms of the mission's scientific goals, the VIPER team wants to know how frozen water reached the Moon in the first place, how it remained preserved for billions of years, how it escapes and where the water goes now.
The mission is part of Artemis, America's plan to return humans to the Moon.
The first crewed mission is technically set for 2024, but will likely take place significantly later as various aspects are running behind schedule.
Two 17-year-olds were injured in a shooting at a high school in the US state of Virginia on Monday, officials said, adding that the suspect had been arrested after fleeing the scene.
"One person -- a male juvenile -- is in police custody," Newport News Police Department said in a statement after shots were fired at the Heritage High School.
Police said a 17-year-old male and a 17-year-old female were taken to hospital with gunshot wounds that were not life-threatening.
After a year spent largely learning online, US schools have returned to the classroom, reviving the fear of on-campus shootings, with multiple small-scale incidents reported in recent weeks.
As Monday's incident unfolded, students were evacuated to the school's tennis courts, where parents were asked to collect them.
The suspect, who was arrested after leaving the premises, was known to the victims, police said.
Police dismissed reports of active shooters at other schools in the city of Newport News.
In 2018, 17 died at a shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
The United States will formally return an illegally imported 3,500-year-old tablet recounting the epic of Gilgamesh to Iraq this week, the United Nations' cultural body UNESCO announced Monday.
The ancient tablet, which a wealthy US collector had acquired along with other Iraqi artifacts to display in the Washington Museum of the Bible, will be handed over to Iraqi officials at the Smithsonian Institution on September 23.
UNESCO called the repatriation of the tablet, along with 17,000 other artifacts sent back to Iraq in July, "a significant victory in the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural objects."
"The theft and illicit trafficking of ancient artifacts continues to be a key funding source for terrorist groups and other organized criminal organizations," the Paris-based agency said in a statement.
It said that when the Islamic State extremist group controlled large parts of Iraq and Syria over 2014-2019, Iraqi archaeological sites and museums were systematically looted.
The rare fragment, which recounts a dream sequence from the Gilgamesh epic in Akkadian cuneiform script, is one of many ancient artifacts from Iraq and the Middle East collected by David Green, the billionaire owner of the Hobby Lobby craft store chain.
It was seized by the US Justice Department in 2019, two years after Green opened the museum dedicated to ancient Christian history in downtown Washington.
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