Atomic clock and Martian drill: Rare space objects to be on display at Expo 2020 Dubai

Space Week at the world fair will showcase objects that are out of this world

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From robotic arms that can dig through Martian soil to talks by scientists who studied lunar soil – Expo 2020 Dubai will have a major focus on space.

National pavilions will display their past and upcoming achievements in space during the world fair, scheduled to begin on October 1, 2021.

A Space Week will be held during the event and a huge space show will take place at the Al Wasl Dome – the world’s largest 360-degree projection screen.

An online event by Expo 2020 Dubai last week shed light on what can be expected next year.


Expo visitors at the Italian pavilion will be able to see a robotic arm that will dig through Martian soil.

The space drill is part of ExoMars 2022, a joint Mars exploration mission by the European Space Agency and Russian space agency Roscosmos.

Manufactured by Italian aerospace company Leonardo, the drill will be on board the Rosalind Franklin rover and will be able to drill down as far as two metres into the surface of the Red Planet.

The mission will be to choose and analyse soil samples on board and look for signs of life.

The launch was postponed from this year until 2022, when the next Mars launch window opens.

A hydrogen atomic clock – the most accurate clock yet made for satellite navigation applications – will also be in the display.

The clock accumulates an error of one second every three million years.

Two of them are installed on each of the European Global Navigation Satellite System's Galileo satellites.

United States

At the US pavilion, experts from US space agency Nasa will share their experience of carrying out experiments on lunar soil samples.

The US is a leading space nation, with many upcoming breakthrough projects. Manned spaceflight returned to the country through partnerships with commercial companies such as SpaceX.

Nasa retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011 with the final flight of the Atlantis orbiter.

That was the 135th flight of the shuttle programme. After this, the US relied on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to fly American astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Now, Nasa is attracting many international partnerships and support for its Lunar Gateway project, which is a planned lunar-orbiting space station. Through its Artemis programme, US will put the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. The goal is to use establish a human base on the Moon from which to send astronauts to Mars.

Nasa also plans to launch the James Webb Space Telescope next year. It will be the largest and most powerful space telescope built and launched into space, and will help find exoplanets and ones that potentially hold life.

“We are planning a spectacular exhibition to capture the fascination of Expo visitors, and what could be more captivating than space exploration,” said John Rakolta Jr, US ambassador to the UAE

“As part of our exhibit, the United States will highlight recent achievements in space, as well as partnerships between the public and private sectors to demonstrate our co-operation in space exploration."

In 1970, the US displayed Moon rocks brought back from the Apollo 12 mission at the Osaka Expo. The samples were 3.2 billion years old and were buried under the Moon’s surface until a meteorite impact 15 million years ago made it visible.

The pavilion also had a full-scale replica of the Apollo 11 landing site, a lunar module, with two space-suited hosts greeting visitors.


Russia, an early space pioneer, will also have a space focus at its pavilion next year.

In the pre-Expo event last week, Sergey Krikalev, executive director of human spaceflight at Roscosmos, spoke about future plans in space exploration.

Visitors can expect to see Russia’s past achievements in space at its pavilion during Space Week, including sending the first satellite and man to space, its contribution to the International Space Station and rocket launching abilities.

Monaco Pavilion for Expo 2020

Monaco Pavilion for Expo 2020

The UAE’s first astronaut, Maj Hazza Al Mansouri, launched into space last year on board the Russian Soyuz rocket. He was trained at Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, near Moscow.

“In the near future, we are going to send three new modules to the Russian segment of the International Space Station,” Mr Krikalev said.

The first is a laboratory module, the second one is a universal docking module which will have several docking abilities and the third will provide extra power to the Russian segment and extra space to do scientific experiments.