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UAE starts historic Lunar Gateway project

The airlock under development is an airtight room used to exit and enter the space station, which is due to be built by 2028.
Photo credit: Salem Al Marri/Twitter

The UAE has commenced work on the historic Lunar Gateway project, a significant step toward an Emirati astronaut participating in a Moon mission for the first time. Salem Al Marri, Director General of Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), announced the milestone on social media, highlighting several meetings with NASA officials to kickstart the collaboration.

Under this collaboration, MBRSC will contribute to the Gateway’s Crew and Science Airlock, facilitating transfers between the habitable environment of Gateway and the vacuum of space. This technology will support extensive scientific endeavours in the deep space environment and facilitate Gateway maintenance. MBRSC will also provide ongoing engineering support for the lunar space station.

The lunar space station serves as a staging post for NASA’s upcoming Moon missions within the Artemis programme, a global coalition involving the CSA (Canadian Space Agency), ESA (European Space Agency), JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and MBRSC. The ultimate goal is to return humans to the lunar surface for scientific discovery and chart a path for the first human missions to Mars.

This collaborative effort builds upon NASA’s and the UAE’s previous partnerships in human spaceflight. In 2019, Hazzaa Al Mansoori became the first Emirati to journey to space during a mission to the International Space Station (ISS). In 2023, Sultan Al Neyadi, a second Emirati astronaut, participated in NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission on the ISS, contributing to scientific research.

Currently, the UAE has two additional astronaut candidates undergoing training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The collaboration between NASA and the UAE extends to Mars research, human research, and analogue studies, aligning with mutual exploration priorities.

The Artemis Accords, signed in 2020 by the US and the UAE, form a practical set of principles guiding space exploration cooperation among nations participating in NASA’s 21st-century lunar exploration program. Through Artemis, NASA aims to achieve significant milestones, including landing the first woman and the first person of colour on the Moon’s surface, paving the way for a sustained lunar presence and laying the foundation for future Mars missions.