UAE reaches for the moon — literally

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The Emirates Lunar Mission is an ambitious national project, which hopes to reinvigorate Arab scientific renaissance in the region and consolidate the gains made by the UAE in the space sector over the past decade — from the construction of satellites to the launch of the Emirates Mars Mission
The Emirates Lunar Mission is an ambitious national project, which hopes to reinvigorate Arab scientific renaissance in the region and consolidate the gains made by the UAE in the space sector over the past decade — from the construction of satellites to the launch of the Emirates Mars Mission "Hope Probe", the first Arab interplanetary mission. — WAM photo

DUBAI — Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and Dubai's ruler, has announced the launch of the Emirates Lunar Mission, the first Emirati and Arab mission to explore the moon. The mission supports the UAE’s efforts to enhance the region’s space industry and contribute to its future built by innovative Emirati minds.

The Emirates Lunar Mission is part of the new 2021-2031 strategy launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), which includes the development and launch of the first Emirati lunar rover named "Rashid", after the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, builder of modern Dubai.

The explorer will be designed and built in the UAE by a 100 percent Emirati team of engineers, experts, and researchers. If successful, the UAE will become the first Arab country and the fourth country in the world to land on the lunar surface after the United States, the erstwhile Soviet Union, and China. MBRSC will partner with an international entity to assist in landing the Rashid Lunar Rover on the Moon.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said, "By exploring the Moon, we are drafting a new inspiring chapter in the UAE’s growing list of achievements in space and beyond."

"We chose to name the Lunar Rover 'Rashid', after the builder of the modern renaissance of Dubai and one of the founders of the UAE. This project is the largest national and humanitarian project in the region."

"We have a large-scale space program combined with an unwavering will, strategic governance, and an ambitious cadre of scientists, researchers, and engineers. The future awaiting us is full of achievements and innovations. What lies ahead is even more promising," he added.

The mission aims to conduct tests to study various aspects of the lunar surface, including the lunar soil and its formation and components, thermal properties of the surface including thermal amplitude and conduction characteristics. It will carry out a series of measurements and tests that will expand human understanding of the Moon-plasma, photoelectrons, and dust particles located over the illuminated part of the lunar surface. A range of materials will also be tested and their interaction with the Moon will be studied.

During its mission period, the Lunar Rover will capture multiple images and relay it back to the control room in Dubai. The Emirates Lunar Mission will also test new technologies in material science, robotics, mobility, navigation, and communications, specially designed to survive and function in the harsh lunar environment.

The Emirati lunar rover will land on an area of the Moon’s surface that has not been explored by any of the previous lunar exploration missions. Therefore, it will provide novel and highly valued data, images, and insights. During its mission, the lunar rover will collect scientific data on matters relating to the origin of the solar system, our planet, and life.

The Moon is considered an ideal platform to test new technologies and equipment that can be used in future space exploration missions, including Mars. Landing on the Moon also allows for long-term exposure of sensors and other technologies to the space environment. The Lunar Rover will further test new exploration techniques on the Moon, which will help test the UAE’s capabilities before embarking on manned missions to Mars.

The Lunar Rover will be equipped with state-of-the-art technologies including a 3D camera, advanced motion system, sensors, communication system and be powered using solar panels.

It will include four cameras that move vertically and horizontally, including two main cameras, a microscope camera, and a thermal imaging camera. Additionally, it will be equipped with sensors and systems to analyze the properties of soil, dust, radioactivity, electrical activities, and rocks on the surface of the Moon. The explorer will also include an advanced motion system to enhance the efficiency of the Lunar Rover’s wheels' movement on the Moon and facilitate the process to overcome natural barriers, along with a robust structure to protect devices and machinery from changing temperatures.

A team of Emirati engineers, researchers, and experts at MBRSC is working towards completing the design of the Lunar Rover by 2021. The rover is set to be manufactured in 2022, while preliminary experiments and tests of the prototype are expected to start in 2023. The center aims to launch the Lunar Rover by 2024, setting another record in its growing list of achievements in the space sector.

Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, the chairman of MBRSC, said: "The Emirates Lunar Mission is an embodiment of the spirit of UAE’s innovation and scientific progress, in accordance with the vision of its wise leadership that supports scientific ambition and stimulates achievements. As an ambitious country with a forward-looking vision and outlook, we are constantly marching ahead. With this Mission, we are adding a new chapter in the history of lunar missions, at a time when minds are racing to accomplish scientific achievements that benefit humanity."

Al Mansoori added: "The mission is an indicator of the potential and experience of the Arab youth. The project embodies the spirit of innovation and scientific progress that characterizes the UAE and reflects on the greatness of our dreams, the vision of our children, the wisdom of our leadership, the determination of our heroes, and the position of our nation as a global center for space science. We will continue on this path of science and knowledge as a strategic choice to build the future of the UAE."

Yousuf Hamad AlShaibani, the director-general of MBRSC, said: "The Emirates Lunar Mission is a clear indication of the wise leadership's vision to invest in the country's future and contribute to advance knowledge in the global space sector. The culture of leadership and work has taught us that the secret of success is not the abundance of resources, but our ability to manage these resources and direct them in a way that serves our goals."

"The mission will engineer a new scientific reality for Arabs and Emiratis, following the legacy of Arab scientists and achievers of the past who shaped the region’s scientific renaissance in various fields. It will contribute to providing knowledge and expertise to the scientific community through a trove of scientific data that will raise the position of the UAE in the international arena.

"The data procured from the Emirates Lunar Mission will create a knowledge base that will help in building a research station on the Moon and answer questions related to the formation of both the Solar System and the planets in them. This will in turn put humans on the surface of the Moon one day. The presence of the UAE among the few nations worldwide that have launched missions to space reiterates the fact that, in the Arab world, we can usher in change and accomplishments through sheer will and determination."

Adnan AlRais, Mars 2117 program director at MBRSC, said: "The Emirates Lunar Mission paves the way for the realization 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. We are aware that the project launching today is not an easy one and involves many challenges, but every risk to us is a learning opportunity. Developing local knowledge through practical projects is very important to us because we are able to transform challenges into opportunities as our leaders have taught us."

"The Lunar Rover is expected to send back at least 1,000 images, including that of the Moon landing, surface images, night-time images of the Earth, thermal images, self-images, as well as navigation data, including flight time, surface topography data on the moon, inertial measurement unit, IMU, data, temperatures, and energy consumption."

The Lunar Rover is expected to face many challenges on the surface of the Moon, as it has a harsher environment than Mars, and the temperature can reach minus 173 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the lunar soil, surface terrain, lunar photoelectrons and other factors may pose challenges to the mission. The focus of the team of researchers and engineers at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre is to design a Lunar Rover capable of bypassing all potential obstacles while performing its mission. With a success rate of only 45 percent, landing on the Moon is considered one of the most challenging space missions due to the precision required for a successful landing. Other technical challenges also arise due to the harsh environment of the Moon. If successful, the UAE will become the first Arab country and the fourth country in the world to successfully land on the lunar surface after the United States, the Soviet Union, and China.

During its mission, 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. Furthermore, the impact of these developments will extend beyond the space sector and into various vital sectors in the national and global economy.

The Emirates Lunar Mission is an ambitious national project, part of the new 2021-2031 strategy launched by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre. The strategy is a roadmap for the Centre’s work during the next decade. It boosts the center’s international competitiveness, builds new international knowledge partnerships, and develops Emirati capabilities in the field of space exploration and space technologies.

The Emirates Lunar Mission is an ambitious national project, which hopes to reinvigorate Arab scientific renaissance in the region and consolidate the gains made by the UAE in the space sector over the past decade — from the construction of satellites to the launch of the Emirates Mars Mission "Hope Probe", the first Arab interplanetary mission. The mission also contributes to achieving the ambitious vision of the UAE to be among the leading centers specialized in studying and developing space sciences, turning it into a hub for scientists and researchers by providing them with a wealth of data, knowledge, and scientific resources for free. This will in turn contribute to the betterment of mankind.


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