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Stock photo of staff working at The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) . Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE will alter the landing site of its second mission to the Moon’s surface, Rashid Rover 2, a senior official revealed on Thursday.

Rashid Rover 2 was announced after Rashid Rover 1, the first Arab mission to the lunar surface, crash-landed on the lunar surface last year after the landing vehicle carrying it failed at a soft landing.

During a media tour of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in Dubai, Adnan Al Rais, project manager of the Emirates Lunar Mission at MBRSC, provided updates about the country’s second lunar rover.

Feasibility study

“Currently, we’re working on the feasibility study to select the department that could provide the lander to host Rashid Rover 2 to the Moon’s surface,” he said.

“We’re looking into all options, whether from space agencies or from the private sector, and monitoring their progress as well on their first mission and their plans for follow up missions.”

 Adnan Al Rais, project manager of the Emirates Lunar Mission at MBRSC
Adnan Al Rais, project manager of the Emirates Lunar Mission at MBRSC Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

The entities in consideration include Japanese company iSpace, which built the Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander that carried Rashid Rover 1. The lander attempted a soft landing on the Moon on April 26, 2023 but hit the surface hard, scattering large pieces of debris across the touchdown site.

Al Rais said the team plans to complete the feasibility study by mid this year, and select the lander. Based on that, he said a new landing site will be announced.

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New landing site

The landing site of Rashid Rover 1, the Atlas crater — located at 47.5°N, 44.4°E, on the southeastern outer edge of Mare Frigoris (Sea of Cold) in the far lunar north — was chosen to maintain its flexibility during operations.

Though he did not elaborate on the new landing site, Al Rais said MBRSC will also incorporate additional science depending on the new landing site even as it will continue the scientific experiments assigned to Rashid Rover 1.

“So, when we are going to a different region, then maybe the initial science that we selected for the first rover may not be viable for that particular area. So this is an area that we are also exploring which we want to do — unique science on the selected landing site based on the lander that we’re gonna select.”

Lessons learnt

He said the team aims to enhance the technologies utilised in Rashid Rover 1, particularly in mobility, communication, and on-board systems, drawing from the lessons learnt in the first mission.

“We had the advantage that our first mission took four months to cruise in orbit until we reached the surface of the Moon. So, during that phase, we collected a lot of data. We understood the performance of the mission throughout the launch, the cruise phase, all the way to the last few metres before landing. So all that helped us in order to also work on the second model [by] advancing our technologies.”

MBRSC will continue experiments like material adhesion determination, where samples from various universities are placed on the rover’s wheels and delivered to the moon’s surface. Discussions with local and international universities on sample selection are underway for the second rover’s mission.