Dubai: Going to the Moon in 2024 will pave the way to accomplish the UAE’s mission of sending humans to Mars by 2117. This — in a nutshell — is the objective of the first Arab mission to explore the Moon, Adnan AlRais, Mars 2117 Programme Director, said during Sunday’s Press briefing on the Emirates Lunar Mission.
The Emirates Lunar Mission is part of the new 2021-2031 strategy launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC). His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, had announced on September 29 that the UAE would launch an Emirati-made rover that would land on the surface of the moon by 2024. The rover was named “Rashid”, after the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the builder of modern Dubai and one of the UAE’s Founding Fathers.
The rover is set to land in an area on the Moon’s surface that has not been explored by previous lunar exploration missions. If successful, the UAE will become the first Arab and only the fourth country in the world to land on the Moon, after the United States, the former Soviet Union and China.
Lunar gateway to Mars
AlRais noted that in order for the UAE to realise its strategic programme of having a human colony in Mars, the country has to build its capacity in space missions. He said: “The Emirates Lunar Mission paves the way for the realisation of the Mars 2117 Programme’s strategy. The mission will provide us with answers and data that define the course of our mission to explore Mars and benefit humanity.”
He further explained: “For a road map to accomplish future human missions, we need to first go to the moon to develop a lunar gateway and develop robotics missions to enhance technologies and create new discoveries that will help us in the future to achieve our ultimate goal, which is basically sending humans to Mars and building a settlement there.”
AlRais had earlier said Emirates Lunar Mission “is not an easy one, but every risk is a learning opportunity”. “Developing local knowledge through practical projects is very important for us, because we are able to transform challenges to opportunities as our leaders have taught us.”
He added: “Rashid, the lunar rover, will conduct numerous scientific tests on the surface of the Moon that will contribute to making qualitative developments in the fields of science, communication technologies and robotics — not just for the UAE, but also for the worldwide scientific community. The lunar mission will also create a conducive environment for space entrepreneurs and inspire the UAE and Arab youth to take up space sciences and contribute towards making the UAE a hub for space technology.
Timetable and specs
Dr Hamad Al Marzooqi, project manager of Emirates Lunar Mission at MBRSC, said a team of Emirati engineers, researchers and experts at MBRSC is working towards completing the design of the Lunar Rover by 2021. Manufacturing and assembly will be completed in 2022, while preliminary experiments and tests of the prototype will commence in 2023.
Rashid will be equipped with advanced technologies, including a 3D camera, advanced motion system, sensors, a microscope camera and a thermal imaging camera plus state-of-the-art communication system. Once on the surface the moon, it will run on solar panels. Its four cameras will move vertically and horizontally. It will also be equipped with sensors and systems to analyse the properties of soil, dust, radioactivity, electrical activities, and rocks on the surface of the Moon.
‘A very interesting site’
According to Al Marzooqi, the rover will land on an unexplored but safe area of the Moon’s surface. “It will be a very interesting site from the scientific point of view,” he added.
When asked by Gulf News which countries or space agencies the UAE will be collaborating with, AlRais said they will be making an announcement soon. He said the UAE will work with various space agencies like it did when it had launched its satellite and sent the first Emirati astronaut to space. The MBRSC also has yet to identify which rocket service provider will be tapped to carry the lunar rover to the Moon. Financial details for the project will be announced later.