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UAE partners with Japan’s ispace to send rover to Moon in 2022

Image credit: Dreamstime

Japanese lunar exploration company ispace will work with the UAE’s space centre to transport a rover to the Moon in 2022, amid the state’s push to expand its space sector.

Last year, Sheikh Mohammed bin Radhid al-Maktoum of Dubai announced that a lunar rover would land on an unexplored area on the surface of the Moon in 2024. He said that the rover would be named Radhid in memory of his late father, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al-Maktoum.

The accelerated programme will see the Rashid lunar rover – which will be designed by an Emirati team at Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) – aim for the Moon next year instead. MBRSC programme manager Adnan al-Rais said that the centre had seized the opportunity to launch earlier than planned through a partnership with ispace.

During 'Mission 1', the rover will be launched by ispace from Florida and carried using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The rocket will deliver an ispace lander into orbit around the Moon and the lander will propel itself down to the surface. The precise lunar location is expected to be disclosed soon.

Following the landing, the UAE rover will emerge and navigate the surface of the Moon itself. The rover will carry six instruments for data collection to help scientists better understand lunar dust and airless astronomical bodies. Under the terms of the contract, ispace will provide the mission with wired communication and power during the cruise phase and wireless communication on the Moon.

The Rashid rover will remain on the Moon after data collection is complete.

This will be the first mission of its kind for the Arab world and for ispace, which aims to provide commercial lunar transportation services. A successful mission would render the UAE and Japan the next nations to land a spacecraft on the Moon, following the US, Russia and China.

“Our mission through scientific endeavours such as the Emirates Lunar Mission is to keep the UAE flag flying high and be at the forefront of countries contributing to scientific achievements that will change the future for humanity,” said MBRSC director-general Yousuf Hamad al-Shaibani.

The UAE launched its National Space Programme in 2017 to develop local technical knowledge and expertise. It aims to boost its space sector as part of a wider policy of economic diversification, as it reduces its reliance on oil. Last year, it successfully sent a probe into orbit around Mars; the probe is continuing to collect and send to Earth data about the Martian atmosphere and climate.

The UAE has stated a long-term aim of developing a Mars settlement by 2117 - a century after the establishment of its space programme.

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