Five landing sites shortlisted for UAE Moon mission

The rover will explore areas of the Moon that have not been reached by previous missions

  
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Image courtesy Dubai Media Office Twitter handle.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Image courtesy Dubai Media Office Twitter handle.

The UAE has finalised five landing sites for its ambitious Emirates Lunar Mission and negotiations are underway to pick a lander, a top official said.

Last month, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced the UAE will send the Emirati-made rover named 'Rashid' to the Moon in 2024. The rover will explore areas of the Moon that have not been reached by previous missions.

Hamad Al Marzooqi, project manager, Emirates Lunar Mission, Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), said the main objective of the project is to advance the UAE's capabilities and technologies in robotics exploration.

"The mission shall prepare and demonstrate the UAE's national capability to develop and operate a mobile robot on another celestial body, obtain scientific data that will be relevant and useful for designing future lunar missions as well as fundamental research, engage public by involving individual members directly in the operations and attempt to survive the first lunar night by means of providing basic operations on the second lunar day," he said in his presentation during a virtual summit held as part of the initiative InnovItalyUAE.

"If we are going to the moon, it will be interesting to do some useful science there," he said during a seminar on the topic: Space Exploration and Earth Observation held by the Italian Embassy.

Al Marzooqi noted the selection of the landing sites is based on the criteria that there are no slopes bigger than 15 degrees, distribution of boulder is less than 30cms of height, near the side of the moon and targeting mid-latitude locations.

"We have been through this process for a couple of months and now selected interesting locations. We have a shortlist of five landing sites. We plan to select a binary location and a backup one in case of emergency. We are currently negotiating with different potential partners and we are at an advanced stage with potential landers. We'll disclose the conclusions of these discussions in the coming months or next year," said Al Mazrooqi.

A successful landing would put the UAE in a very exclusive list of countries that have landed missions on the Moon. Only three countries - the US, the erstwhile Soviet Union and China - have landed 20 of the 44 missions to the lunar surface till date. Rashid Rover will also be the first-ever Arab lunar mission, just two months after the UAE successfully launched the Arab world's first interplanetary mission, Hope probe to Mars.

Features of the rover

Al Marzooqi said the four-wheeled rover with different gears weighs 10kg, operates with a maximum speed at 10cm/s, can clear obstacles at the height of 10cm and drives over slopes of 20 degrees. There are two communication systems, two high-resolution cameras and three main science instruments.

"We would do petrography and understand the geology of the Moon, understand the lunar surface of plasma conditions, and finally advance future mission technologies."

The rover also has a thermal imager and microscopic imager, the LNG - Langmuir probe to check surface charging and electric fields and the MAD - material adhesion determination that exposes different materials to lunar regolith. Cameras will be used for navigation and to produce high-resolution images.

"Since we are targeting an unexplored surface, whatever images we get will add substantial value to the science community to understand the geology of the lunar surface," Al Marzooqi said.

RASHID ROVER

>Mobility capabilities

>Maximum Speed: 10 cm/s

>Slope: 20 degrees

>Obstacle height: 10 cm

>Four-wheeled rover with differential gear

Scientific objectives

>Study the lunar surface: Thermal properties and conduction characteristics

>Study the lunar soil: Its formation and components

>Tests to expand human understanding of the Moon-plasma, photoelectrons and dust particles located over the illuminated part of the lunar surface

>Capture multiple images and relay it back to the control room in Dubai

Mission

>Land on an unexplored area of the Moon

>It will collect scientific data on matters relating the origin of the solar system, Earth and life

 

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