Once more, the UAE is bravely going where few other nations have gone, beyond our planet, seeking to add to our depth of knowledge on our closest neighbour, the Moon.
On Sunday, 11 December, the UAE became the first Arab nation to launch a mission to the Moon. On-board a SpaceX Falcon rocket now thundering towards an orbital rendezvous with our ever-present satellite.
Indeed, for almost as long as this planet has existed, the Moon has been our constant companion, its presence allowing us to calculate time and keep calendars, giving us a sense of place and purpose. Despite this long-standing and, yes, almost timeless relationship, we know little about it.
Make no mistake — the challenge ahead is indeed mighty. Only the US, the former Soviet Union and China have managed to land missions — manned or otherwise — on the lunar surface, with both Israel and India attempting but failing to do so.
Regardless, this ambitious mission from the UAE to put the rover Rashid on the surface marks a milestone in space exploration and in this nation’s continuing voyage beyond the bounds of our terrestrial planet.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, were in the control room of the UAE’s space agency to watch the probe begin its five-month long mission to the Mood.
As Sheikh Mohammed rightly noted in a tweet, “reaching the Moon is another milestone in the ambitious march of a country and a nation whose aspirations have no limits”, adding the UAE is determined to “pass on knowledge, developing our capabilities, and adding a scientific footprint in human history is our goal.”
Shortly after John F Kennedy was elected President of the US in 1960, he united his nation and captured the world’s imagination with a promise to place a man on the Moon by the end of that decade. It was a pledge made to push mankind because it was indeed unimaginably hard. Six decades on, the challenge of reaching out and successfully landing on the Moon remains incredibly difficult — a technical and logistical challenge.
Right now, the Rashid Rover travels through the black void of space, this nation has already achieved a remarkable feat. That feat speaks to the inventiveness, technological prowess and organisational capabilities that few other nations can muster. In that alone, we all can take pride. But we can take pride too knowing that when this nation sets its sights on making the impossible happen, extraordinary feats do indeed manifest and coalesce in a common goal.
This mission to the Moon is but the latest chapter in our vision that the ties of Earth cannot restrain the dreams of our homeland. Already one of our own has circled Earth and viewed the UAE from the International Space Station. Already, a probe from this nation has travelled to Mars. And now we are on our way to the Moon.