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Flying to the moon: UAE launches the first Arab-built moon rover

Rashid Rover was sent to space on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The voyage is expected to last for five months

Flying to the moon: UAE launches the first Arab-built moon rover
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

The UAE launched the Arab world’s first mission to the Moon on Sunday, a historic beginning to the country’s ambitious lunar exploration program. 

The Emirati-made Rashid Rover aboard a Japanese lunar lander was sent to space for a five-month journey to the surface of the Moon on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, USA.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai; Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai; and Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, were at the Mission Control Centre inside the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in Dubai to witness the historic launch of Rashid Rover.

“Reaching the moon is yet another milestone in the ambitious march of a country and a nation whose aspirations have no limits,” Sheikh Mohammed tweeted.

The Japanese-made lunar lander carrying the 10 kg Rashid Rover will land on Atlas Crater, located at 47.5°N, 44.4°E on the Moon’s southeastern outer edge of Mare Frigoris (Sea of Cold). Atlas Crater has a diameter of 88 kilometers, believed to have been formed between 3.2 to 3.8 billion years ago. 

It is there where Rashid Rover will collect data and pictures, studying the properties of lunar soil, the petrography and geology of the Moon, dust movement, and more.

According to MBRSC, Rashid Rover will provide about 10 gigabytes of recorded material, scientific data, and new images to the global scientific community.

The Rashid rover, named in honor of the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed, the former Ruler of Dubai, is among the several governments and commercial payloads aboard the lander.

Rashid Rover is just the first of the UAE’s multiple missions to the Moon. In September, MBRSC signed an agreement with China National Space Administration to start joint space projects and future lunar exploration, including sending the next UAE rover aboard Chang’e 7, a robotic Chinese lunar exploration mission expected to be launched in 2026.

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