The United Arab Emirates has launched its latest space mission, Rashid Rover, as part of the Emirates Lunar Mission, representing a pioneering national endeavour in the space sector.
Successfully lifted off on December 11 at 11:38 GST from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force, Florida, the Rashid Rover was integrated into iSpace M1 lander that was loaded atop the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
With this successful launch, the UAE has 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.
While witnessing the launch of the Rashid Rover from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre’s (MBRSC) Mission Control Centre, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, said: “A new stopover for our nation… A new stopover for our cadres and the youth… A new stopover leading to our journey to explore the Moon.
“Rashid Rover is part of the UAE’s ambitious space programme, which began with Mars, progressed to the Moon, and soon to Venus. Our goal is to increase our knowledge, enhance our capabilities, and leave a scientific legacy in the history of space and humanity.
“Reaching the Moon is a milestone in our ambitious march to progress for our nation and its people, who know no limits. And our next step is bigger and higher.”
Rashid Rover will now cruise through space for nearly four months, aiming to land in the Moon’s Atlas Crater in April 2023.
The Emirates Lunar Mission is part of the new 2021-2031 strategy launched by the MBRSC, which includes the development and launch of Rashid, the first Emirati lunar rover named after the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, builder of modern Dubai.
It aims to pave the way for humanity to make even more qualitative advances in science, technology, communication, and robotics while enabling us to prepare for future missions to the Moon and beyond.
The mission undertaken by the UAE will study the lunar surface and uncover insights that will catalyse technology development and the future of space exploration. It will study different aspects of the lunar surface, including lunar soil, thermal properties of surface structures, and the lunar photoelectron sheath.
The Emirati lunar rover will land on an area of the Moon’s surface that previous lunar exploration missions have not explored. 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 mission will go through seven major milestones: Launch and Early Orbit, Cruise Phase, Landing phase, Deployment, Commissioning and Drive Off phase and Nominal Surface Operations. The mission will conclude with the last two phases of Hibernation and the Last Decommissioning phase.
Once the lander reaches the surface, the unexplored areas of Atlas Crater safely, the rover will spend one lunar day — nearly 10 to 12 Earth days — exploring the properties of lunar soil, the petrography and geology of the Moon, dust movement, and study surface plasma conditions and the Moon’s photoelectron sheath.
Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, Chairman of MBRSC, added: “With the Emirates Lunar Mission’s successful launch, the UAE space industry is entering a new era and is on course to go down in the history of lunar missions. The ELM embodies the spirit of the UAE’s innovation and scientific progress in accordance with the vision of its wise leadership, which encourages scientific ambition and achievement. And as it followed the 51st UAE National Day, there was no better way to honour this momentous national accomplishment.”
Salem Al Marri, Director-General of MBRSC, stated: “We have made history with the launch, and what an incredible sight to watch the first Emirati mission to the Moon take off. It’s taken a lot to get here, and I congratulate everyone who was behind the mission. We now look forward to the landing on the Moon’s surface and completing the Emirates Lunar Mission, which will contribute to future explorations and beyond.”
This ambitious mission undertaken by the UAE to study the surface of the Moon is considered a gateway for future exploration of other planets, especially for Mars under the Mars 2117 programme.