Lander carrying UAE rover sends back first image of Moon

Attempt to touch down on lunar surface to happen next month

The first image of the Moon sent back by ispace's Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander, which is carrying the UAE's Rashid rover. Photo: ispace
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A Japanese lunar lander that is carrying the UAE's Rashid rover has sent back its first image of the Moon from orbit.

The Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander, built by private company ispace, successfully entered the lunar orbit last week, with the Rashid rover safely stored inside.

It will attempt a landing late next month. If successful, it would make ispace the first company to achieve a commercial cargo mission to the Moon and the UAE the first Arab country to achieve a lunar mission.

“Hello from lunar orbit!” ispace tweeted on Monday.

“After last week's successful lunar orbital insertion manoeuvre, this image of the Moon was captured by our lander-mounted camera during Hakuto-R Mission 1. More stunning views to come!”

The spacecraft launched on December 11 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida and has travelled more than one million kilometres since.

This is the company's and the UAE's first mission to the Moon and will pave the way for the Emirates' long-term lunar exploration programme.

Moon landings are not easy. Spacecraft touching down on Earth or Mars, for example, can use parachutes to slow themselves down and land safely.

But because the Moon is void of any atmosphere, complex manoeuvres are required to reduce the speed of the lander to touch down softly on the surface.

Only the US, the former Soviet Union and China have achieved soft landings on the Moon.

Landers operated by India and Israel have crashed on the surface.

Once the Rashid rover is on the Moon, it will spend 14 days exploring and capturing data.

Emirati engineers will study the properties of lunar soil, the petrography and geology of the Moon, dust movement, surface plasma conditions and the Moon's photoelectron sheath.

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Updated: March 27, 2023, 1:24 PM