Lunar exploration company iSpace will transport a rover from the United Arab Emirates to the moon in 2022, the Japanese company said on Wednesday, as the United Arab Emirates pushes for a rapid expansion of space exploration in order to diversify its economy.
The UAE is using its space program to develop its scientific and technological capabilities and reduce its dependence on oil.
The first interplanetary probe from the Gulf State and the Arab world entered orbit of Mars in February. It is now sending data on the Martian atmosphere and climate.
The Rashid lunar rover will be entirely designed by Emiratis. The UAE originally intended to send it to space by 2024.
Japanese company iSpace, founded in 2010, aims to provide commercial transportation to the moon with a broader mission to eventually incorporate the moon into the Earth’s economy.
The launch in 2022 will be iSpace’s first such mission and will use a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket by Elon Musk, which will be launched from Florida.
Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) will build the Rashid lunar rover. He will remain on the moon once data collection is complete, said Hamad al-Marzooqi, head of the Emirates lunar mission.
The SpaceX rocket will deliver an iSpace lander to the orbit of the moon. The lander will propel itself to the surface of the moon and the UAE rover will then emerge from the lander and set off to explore, said iSpace founder and CEO Takeshi Hakamada.
The lander will also carry a solid-state battery designed by Japanese company NGK Spark Plug for testing in the lunar environment.
The lunar mission is part of the Gulf State’s broader vision for a settlement on Mars by 2117.
As part of the deal, iSpace said it will also provide the Emirates lunar mission with wired communication and power during the cruise phase and wireless communication on the moon.
The UAE launched a national space program in 2017 to develop local expertise. Its population of 9.4 million, most of whom are foreign workers, lacks the scientific and industrial base of large countries with space programs.
Hazza al-Mansouri became the first Emirati in space in 2019 when he flew to the International Space Station. This week, the United Arab Emirates selected the first Arab woman to train as an astronaut.
(With the contribution of the agencies)