The UAE and France have signed a letter of intent to develop lunar spacecrafts together.
It was among a number of important agreements and deals signed during French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the UAE this weekend.
The letter was signed on Saturday by officials from both the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre and the French National Centre for Space Studies (Cnes).
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and French President Emmanuel Macron were also in attendance.
“The letter of intent was signed by Salem Al Marri, director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, and Philippe Baptiste, chief executive of Cnes, as both parties aim to strengthen their collaboration in lunar exploration through working on advanced spacecrafts,” the space centre said.
The UAE has a long-term lunar exploration plan that involves launching several space vehicles to the Moon, including orbiters and rovers.
The French space agency is already collaborating with the UAE on its first lunar mission, which includes Rashid, a tiny 10-kilogram rover that will study lunar soil.
France has provided two optical cameras for the mission, including one to be placed on top of the Rashid rover to provide panoramic views of its surroundings.
The second camera could deliver high spatial resolution images of the lunar soil and analyse wheel-soil interaction.
Rashid will be carried to the Moon on a Japanese lander, called Hakuto-R, being built by private company ispace. Elon Musk’s SpaceX will launch the mission on a Falcon 9 rocket.
The space centre is working on another rover as a backup and for use in the country’s Moon exploration programme, which could be launched in 2024 or 2025.
“To increase our chances, we are doing it this way. So, we are working on the next and the next rover,” said Hamad Al Marzooqi, project manager of the Emirates Lunar Mission.
“We will not put all our eggs in one basket. However, we are happy with ispace’s progress.
“But landing on the surface of the Moon is something very risky — even very advanced institutional agencies cannot guarantee success for landing and we have seen failures in the past couple of years.”