The UAE is to send a rover to regions of Moon unexplored by humans, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said.
As part of the Emirates Lunar Mission, the robotic explorer will send back nearly 1,000 images and collect data on lunar soil and dust. It will be built in the UAE by Emirati engineers.
On Saturday, The National reported that the UAE had plans to launch the first Arab mission to the Moon.
"With the grace of God, we have launched a new Emirati project to explore the Moon,” Sheikh Mohammed, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, tweeted on Tuesday.
“It will be an Emirati-made lunar explorer that will land on the surface of the Moon in 2024 in areas not reached by previous human exploration missions.
“We named the lunar explorer Rashid in honour of and a tribute to the founder of Dubai’s renaissance who has taught us how our dreams can be big, far and beyond.”
“The explorer will, for the first time, send new lunar data and images which will be shared with all local and international research centres.”
The Rashid rover will have four cameras that move horizontally and vertically, 3D cameras and microscope and thermal imaging cameras.
Its sensors and systems will enable it to analyse characteristics of soil, dust, radioactivity, electrical charges and rocks on the Moon's surface.
Engineers plan to build a robust structure so the lander's devices and engines are protected.
The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre will be developing the lander. Its engineering model will be finalised by 2021, followed by manufacturing in 2022, the testing phase in 2023 and with a launch planned for 2024.
The south pole of the Moon has been of particular interest to space agencies because of evidence of ice deposits, and now countries like the US want use the surface as a base for deep space exploration. UAE is yet to announce which region it will be visiting.
"It is expected that the explorer will send at least 1,000 images -- that includes pictures of the landing site on the surface of the Moon, the first surface images, night pictures of the earth, thermal images, in addition to sending navigation data, which includes flight time and surface terrain data on the surface of the moon," said Adnan Al Rais, the director of the Mars 2117 programme - a mission that aims to establish an entire city on the Red Planet by the year 2117.
"The Emirates Lunar Mission is a pivotal step that paves the way to the Mars 2117 strategy. The project will provide answers and information that define the course of our mission."
Moon mission puts UAE among elite group
The United States and China have previously landed rovers on the Moon. The Soviet Luna programme in the 1960s and 1970s also put landers on the Moon.
India launched its Chandryaan-2 mission to the Moon in 2019, with the Vikram lunar lander on board. However, the mission failed because of a last-minute glitch and the lander crashed on the surface.
Japan aims to send its first lunar lander next year.
International collaboration in missions to the Moon is now being made possible through US’ Artemis programme.
US space agency Nasa aims to send the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024, eventually establishing a base called Lunar Gateway on the surface. The agency has been encouraging foreign government and private company investments.
Artemis is part of a larger Moon to Mars programme, where astronauts would use the Moon as their base and travel to the Red Planet.
It is not yet confirmed if the UAE has invested in the programme or how it plans to launch the Rashid lander. So far, Italy, Japan and Australia have invested in Artemis.
Another leap forward for UAE's space sector
The UAE’s lunar project announcement came two months after it launched the Arab world’s first mission to Mars. The Hope probe is expected to arrive there in February.
As part of a 10-year strategy for the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, the UAE will build a satellite development facility and research and development centres to boost the country’s capabilities in outer space.
The Emirates also plans to announce the next Emirati space mission soon. In September of 2019, Maj Hazza Al Mansouri became the first UAE citizen in space.