United Arab Emirates to launch spacecraft to moon in 2024

29 September 2020, 11:34

The moon
Moon stock. Picture: PA

The move comes after the launch of a Mars probe earlier this year by the UAE.

The United Arab Emirates plans to send an unmanned spacecraft to the moon in 2024, a senior official has said – the latest gamble in the stars by the oil-rich nation that could see it become only the fourth nation on Earth to accomplish the goal.

The announcement by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who also serves as vice president and prime minister of the UAE, shows the rapid expansion of the space programme that bears his name.

An Emirati space probe is already on its way to Mars, and last year it sent its first astronaut to the International Space Station.

“It will be an Emirati-made lunar rover that will land on the surface of the moon in 2024 in areas that have not been explored previously by human missions,” Sheikh Mohammed wrote on Twitter.

He did not elaborate on the location the UAE plans to explore, or how they will launch the rover into space.

Its Amal, or “Hope”, probe to Mars was launched from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Centre in July.

The Emirati rover will study the lunar surface, mobility on the moon’s surface and how different surfaces interact with lunar particles, the government said.

The 22lb rover will carry two high-resolution cameras, a microscopic camera, a thermal imagery camera, a probe and other devices, it said.

Sheikh Mohammed said the rover will be named Rashid, the name of his late father, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum.

Sheikh Rashid was one of the original founding rulers of the United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula.

Emirati officials brief Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Emirati officials brief Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum/Twitter/AP)

Sheikh Mohammed made the announcement on Twitter after a closed-door meeting with officials. State media photographs of the meeting showed him and others wearing masks due to the coronavirus pandemic.

If successful in 2024, the UAE could become the fourth nation on Earth to land a spacecraft on the moon, after the US, the Soviet Union and China.

India tried and failed to land a spacecraft last year, and Israel saw its own small spacecraft crash into the lunar surface last year before touchdown, failing in an ambitious attempt to make history as the first privately funded lunar landing.

The Amal probe is set to reach the red planet in February 2021, the year the UAE celebrates 50 years since the country’s formation.

In September that year, Amal will start transmitting Martian atmospheric data, which will be made available to the international scientific community, officials say.

A successful mission to the moon would be a major step for the oil-dependent economy seeking a future in space.

The UAE has also set the ambitious goal to build a human colony on Mars by 2117.

By Press Association