Rashid Rover: The United Arab Emirates has launched the first Arab-made lunar rover


A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched on December 11 from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida carried the first Arab-built lunar spacecraft into space.

The Rashid Rover was built by the Dubai Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is being delivered by the HAKUTO-R lander, designed by Japanese lunar exploration company ispace. If the landing is successful, HAKUTO-R will also become the first commercial spacecraft to make a controlled landing on the moon.

The mission is taking a low-energy route to the moon and is due to arrive around April 2023. Once there, the rover will spend one lunar day (equivalent to 14.75 Earth days) on the surface, conducting its primary operations. . It will spend a second lunar day performing secondary operations, to see if the rover will survive the moon’s harsh nighttime environment, before being dismantled.

Scheduled to land in Atlas Crater, the moon’s northeastern part, the rover has been designed to withstand the lunar night, when temperatures can drop to -183°C or -297.4°F.

The Rashid Rover, named after the late Sheikh Rashid Al Saeed, former ruler of Dubai, will analyze plasma on the lunar surface and conduct experiments to understand more about lunar dust. Razor-sharp lunar dust particles can stick to and erode space suits and equipment, causing operational problems for astronauts.

The rover will run entirely on solar energy and will be equipped with four cameras, including a microscopic and a thermal one.

The launch comes on the heels of NASA’s Artemis I lunar mission and marks the first step in the United Arab Emirates’ ambitious lunar exploration program. The Gulf state plans to send several vehicles, including rovers and orbiters, to the moon, with a second rover planned to launch in 2025.

Construction of the four-wheeled, 10kg Rashid Rover began in 2017 at the MBRSC. It was designed by an entirely Emirati team. “The team did a great job in initiating the mission and designing it,” Hamad Al Marzooqi, project manager for the Emirates Lunar Mission at the MBRSC, told CNN.

The MBRSC is also using the mission to push forward ambitious plans for a colony on Mars. He hopes to build the first human settlement on the Red Planet by 2117. Al Marzooqi hopes the mission to the lunar surface will be a stepping stone to Mars.

“We are starting small,” he says, “but we hope that this small step will eventually be the starting point for reaching our goals.”

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