ARAB SPACE TRAVEL: UAE rockets ahead

By Rhona Wells

18 May 2021: The moon, Earth’s closest celestial neighbour, has been an object of wonder and mystery since time immemorial.

Scientific missions over the centuries have peeled away layers of that mystery, but the moon continues to harbour many secrets. In 1610, Italian astronomer, Galileo Galilei, made the first telescopic observation of the moon.

America and the then Soviet Union were among the first to have lunar missions from the late 1950 onwards.(see relevant lunar milestones below). Since 2007, Japan, China, India, Israel and the UAE have joined in the race to unravel space’s mysteries.

Lunar exploration company iSpace, a Japanese start-up company, founded in 2010, will transport the UAE’s rover to the moon in 2022, two years ahead of the planned schedule of 2024. The company aims to provide commercial transportation to the moon with a wider ambitious mission to ultimately incorporate the moon into the earth’s economy.

The 2022 launch will be the first mission of this kind for the UAE and will use a Falcon 9 rocket from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, to be launched from Florida. According to iSpace Founder and CEO Takeshi Hakamada, the rocket will deliver the lander to the moon’s orbit.It will then propel itself to the moon’s surface and Rashid, the rover, will emerge from the lander and drive off to explore.

Rashid will be designed entirely by Emiratis at Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC).According to Emirates Lunar Mission manager Hamad al-Marzooqi, It will remain on the moon after data collection is completed. At just half a meter in length and weighing 10 kilograms, the lunar rover may be small, but has big potential for the UAE’s blossoming space industry. It is named after the late Sheikh Rashid, father of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the current ruler of Dubai and vice president of the UAE.

Under the agreement, iSpace will also provide the Emirates Lunar Mission with wired communication and power during the cruise phase and wireless communication on the moon.

The Arab world’s, first interplanetary probe entered Mars’ orbit in February 2021. It is now sending data about the Martian atmosphere and climate. The lunar mission is part of the UAE’s broader vision for a Mars settlement by 2117.

In 2019 , Hazza al-Mansouri became the first Emirati in space 2019 when he flew to the International Space Station. On April 14, 2021 the UAE selected the first Arab woman to train as an astronaut. Only 65 women from around the world have been in space, and 27-year-old Nora al-Matrooshi is on the path to becoming the 66th. Born in Sharjah, she was chosen from over 4,000 candidates to be trained for future space exploration missions.
She will join NASA’s 2021 Astronaut Candidate Class in the United States, alongside another aspiring Emirati astronaut,Mohammad Al Mulla.They will train alongside Hazzaa al-Mansoori and Sultan al-lNeyadi, the first Emirati astronauts selected in 2018.

The UAE is using its space program to develop its scientific, technological capabilities and reduce its reliance on oil by diversifying its economy.


Relevant lunar milestones 

  • 1610  Galileo Galilei made first telescopic representation of the moon
  • 1651  Giovanni  Battista Riccioli named craters after philosophers and astonomers
  • 1753  Roger Joseph Boscovitch proved the moon had no atmosphere
  • 1920  Robert Goddard suggested sending rockets to the moon
  • 1959  Soviet spacecraft Luna 2 reached the moon ,near crater Atolyeus
  • 1961   President John F Kennedy proposed a manned lunar program
  • 1969  The Apollo11 mission made the first landing on the moon
  • 1998   Nasa’s Lunar Prospector mission launched
  • 2007  Japan launched the Selene (Kayuga) spacecraft
  • 2007  China launched a lunar orbitor, Chang’e1
  • 2008  India launched its moon orbitor Chandrayaan
  • 2013  China’s Chang’e3 landed a rover, Yutu , photographing moon’s surface
  • 2018  China’s Chang’e 4 landed on the far side of the moon
  • 2019  Israel’s first moon lander, Beresheet, crashed into the moon’s surface
  • 2020  China’s Chang’e 5 landed safely on the moon’s surface, returning to Earth in 2021 with samples

For a more complete timeline, visit “Lunar timeline, Humanity’s explorations of the moon”.