Mohammed launches UAE mission to the moon

Eudore R. Chand

DUBAI 30 September 2020: The first Emirati and Arab mission to explore the moon, was yesterday launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai..

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, said official news agency Wam.

The explorer will be designed and built in the UAE by 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, 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 programme 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.

Scientific objectives

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.

Ideal platform

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 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.

Technical specifications

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 analyse 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.

Timeline

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 Centre aims to launch the Lunar Rover by 2024, setting another record in its growing list of achievements in the space sector.

Challenges

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.

Buzz Aldrin on the moon – courtesy NASA

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.

Strategy 2021-2031

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 Centre’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 centres specialised 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.

MBRSC’s strategic programmes for the coming decade includes the Hope Probe, which is part of the Emirates Mars Mission, which will provide new and unique scientific data that will be accessible to more than 200 academic and scientific research institutions around the world. Another key project is the Mars 2117 Programme, which will utilise the latest human knowledge to explore space.

(c)2004 Fred Espenak

The strategy also focuses on the UAE’s satellite development programme, which aims to strengthen the domestic space industry, and to provide data through existing satellites like KhalifaSat and others that will developed by the Centre to increase the efficiency of the satellite network and locally developed advanced space technologies.

The strategy includes the UAE Astronaut Programme, in partnership with NASA, to train and enable Emirati astronauts for future space missions and support the UAE’s aspirations in the space sector.

Another key component of the strategy is the UAE Space Sector Sustainability Programme, that will see the setting up of Centre for Innovation and Development, in partnership with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, the Ministry of Education, Dubai University and a selection of institutions specialised in space sciences. The Centre is also building a supportive environment for space entrepreneurs, inspiring more than 22,000 students to take up space sciences, and contribute to making the UAE a hub for space technology.

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