Dr Hamad Al Marzooqi (second from right) speaks during the panel discussion at SpaceOps 2023 in Dubai on Wednesday Image Credit: Sajila Saseendran/Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE’s Emirates Lunar Mission is working on a second rover to the Moon, a top official revealed on Wednesday.

Dr Hamad Al Marzooqi, project manager, Emirates Lunar Mission (EML), Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), made the announcement while speaking at a plenary session on ‘MBRSC Missions: From Earth to Mars passing by Moon’ at the 17th International Conference on Space Operations (SpaceOps 2023) in Dubai.

Speaking to Gulf News later, he confirmed that MBRSC is working on a new concept design for the next Moon rover. He said no name has been given to the rover yet as further details of the next mission have not firmed up yet.

“We are working on the concepts or the ideas and the objectives. The mission will be announced later, the name of the robot etc will come later,” he said.

April 25 landing

The UAE’s first ever rover to the Moon, the Rashid Rover, is scheduled to land on Moon’s surface on April 25, it was revealed at the same conference on Monday.

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As reported first by Gulf News, the Japanese Lander carrying Rashid Rover has travelled 1.6 million kilometres and the rover is expected to land the Moon on April 25, said Salem Al Marri, director-general of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre.

Pointing out that Moon landing is a high-risk mission, Al Marzooqi said MBRSC considers Rashid Rover to be a success irrespective of its landing success.

“Developing that mission, designing it from scratch, developing testing, and now preparing for operations, all these know-how is a success by itself,” he said

The second aspect is that it [offered] a successful international collaboration platform for us and that allowed us to open up opportunities for future missions as well… that is a success even before we land on the Moon.

“Reaching to this critical moment of that mission with our partners is a successful moment by itself.”

So, he said whether the first rover will land successfully or not was not the focus as Moon-landing “is a risky business.”

“At MBRSC, we have started working and planning for the next rover before we know whether we are successful or not. So it's not the end. If we can call it a trial, yes, maybe it's a trial. But again, we use them to have a second, a third and so on.”

Orbit insertion, landing on Atlas crater

Al Marzooqi said the Rashid Rover is fast approaching the Moon's orbit, and we will have a Lunar Orbit Insertion soon.

He said the Atlas crater was chosen for the landing of the rover taking into account the flat nature of its surface and the scientific interest associated with it.

He pointed out that international collaborations contribute a lot to the Emirates Lunar Mission.

Dr. Sara Al Maeeni, senior expert, Space Robotics Lab, Mars 2117 Programme at MBRSC, said the success rate of landing on the Moon historically is 40 to 50 per cent only.

She said the main objective of the Emirates Lunar Mission is to understand the lunar environment and geology.

“We want to study the lunar dust, which is a challenge for Moon missions. We also aim to understand the thermal behaviour of the rocks on the Moon,” she said.

In view of the International Women’s Day on Wednesday, Dr Al Maeeni said :” There are a lot of opportunities for women in the UAE and today women make around 40 per cent of the team at MBRSC.”

Moon vs Mars missions

The officials on the panel highlighted that it was important to have short-term, successful missions to the Moon while the country is aiming for long-term plans to Mars.

Khalid Badri, senior engineer, Earth and Planetary Science Section, MBRSC said: “One of the main components of the Emirates Mars Mission was knowledge transfer, and one of the objectives was to learn how to build the instruments.”

Meanwhile, Abdulla Harmoul, senior manager, Space Payload and Instruments Section, MBRSC pointed out that MBRSC had “started with a knowledge transfer programme that led us to launch our first satellite DubaiSat-1 and currently we have around 200 engineers.”