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UAE to launch first lunar rover in joint mission with Japan

If successful, the countries would join US, Russia and China in having put spacecraft on moon; Abu Dhabi working toward goal of building human colony on Mars by 2117

Emirati officials brief Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum about a possible moon mission, Sept. 29, 2020, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Twitter account via AP, File)
Emirati officials brief Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum about a possible moon mission, Sept. 29, 2020, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Twitter account via AP, File)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates will launch its first lunar rover in November, the mission manager said Monday.

Hamad Al Marzooqi told The National, a state-linked newspaper, that the Rashid rover, named for Dubai’s ruling family, would be launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida sometime between November 9 and November 15. The exact date will be announced next month, he said.

The rover is to be launched aboard a Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket and deposited on the moon by a Japanese ispace lander sometime in March.

“We’ve finished with the testing of the rover and we are happy with the results,” Al Marzooqi was quoted as saying. “The rover has been integrated with the lander and it is ready for launch.”

The lunar mission is part of the UAE’s broader strategy to become a major player in the field of space exploration. If the moon mission succeeds, the UAE and Japan would join the ranks of only the US, Russia and China as nations that have put a spacecraft on the lunar surface.

Already, an Emirati satellite is orbiting Mars to study the red planet’s atmosphere. The UAE partnered with Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to launch that probe, which swung into Mars’ orbit in February 2021.

An H-IIA rocket with United Arab Emirates’ Mars orbiter Hope lifts off from Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima, southern Japan Monday, July 20, 2020. (Hiroki Yamauchi/Kyodo News via AP)

The Rashid rover is expected to study the lunar surface, mobility on the moon’s surface, and how different surfaces interact with lunar particles. The 10-kilogram (22-pound) rover will carry two high-resolution cameras, a microscopic camera, a thermal imagery camera, a probe and other devices.

The UAE has plans to develop the Middle East’s most advanced commercial satellite to produce high-resolution satellite imagery. It has also set the ambitious goal of building a human colony on Mars by 2117.

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