Rashid rover to reach farthest point of mission before slingshot to Moon

The rover is expected to land on the lunar surface by end of April

The UAE’s Rashid lunar rover is set to reach its furthest distance from Earth since launching on a SpaceX rocket last month.

It is travelling to the Moon on the Hakuto-R lander, built by Japanese company ispace, and is expected to reach the lunar surface by end of April.

As of Monday, the spacecraft had travelled about 1.24 million km from the Earth and is expected to be at its farthest point of about 1.4 million km by January 20.

Once it reaches that point, ispace may perform the third orbital control manoeuvre that will allow the lander to move closer to the Moon.

“Since its launch on December 11, the lander has maintained stable navigation in accordance with the mission plan,” an ispace representative said.

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ispace has taken a longer route to save fuel. It will use a gravity assist from the Sun for the manoeuvre.

This is a technology demonstration mission by ispace that will allow the company to measure the spacecraft’s performance and prepare for more complex journeys in future.

If it manages to land successfully, it would make ispace the first company to achieve a commercial cargo mission to the Moon, with several government and private payloads on board.

Meanwhile, the Rashid rover is the Arab world’s first Moon mission. It is a 10kg rover that will study lunar soil, dust, geology and the electrically charged particles on the lunar surface.

Rashid 2, the second Moon mission by the UAE, will launch on a Chinese spacecraft in 2026.

Updated: January 06, 2023, 3:00 AM