UAE to begin assembling final version of lunar rover for Moon mission

The Emirates plans to land the rover on the lunar surface next year

Emirati engineers are to begin assembling and testing the final version of the lunar rover set to land on the Moon’s surface next year.

A prototype of the Rashid rover was on display at the Dubai Airshow on Sunday.

The rover will be carried to the Moon on board a lander being built by Japanese company ispace.

The mission will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket next year.

Dr Hamad Al Marzooqi, project manager of the Emirates Lunar Mission, said the deadline to deliver the final version of the rover – called the flight model – to ispace is April.

“This model gave us the green light to start manufacturing, integrating and testing the flight model. This will start by mid-December,” he told The National at the airshow.

“We’ve already received a lot of components for the flight model and the integration and testing will start next month and will last from end of March to mid-April.

“Then, we’ll finish in order to ship the flight model to the integration facility of the lander.”

The Hakuto-R lander developed by ispace will be make its maiden flight attempt to the Moon next year.

A growing number of private companies are looking to carry out missions to the Moon’s surface, helping them win contracts with government-run space agencies.

Dr Al Marzooqi said the UAE mission was in close contact with ispace regarding the readiness of the lander and plans to launch the mission as scheduled.

“They are progressing very well. We are in close contact with them and we are following them every almost every week. We are happy with what we are they are doing and they are on track,” he said.

“Everyone is competing to be the first commercial lander to land on the surface of the Moon.

“Success by any commercial lander will give a boost to everyone. Yes, there's a risk depending highly on a commercial lander, but we’ve been taking risks since the beginning and we hope for the best.”

Mission staff are already working on another rover as a back-up and for use in the UAE’s long-term Moon exploration efforts, he said.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre was mandated by the UAE government to carry out a lunar landing by 2024, but the centre secured an earlier flight through ispace.

“To increase our chances, we are doing it this way. So, we are working on the next and the next rover,” Dr Al Marzooqi said.

“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.”

Only the US, the former Soviet Union and China have carried out successful Moon landings.

In the early space exploration era, there was a high rate of failure, especially by the former Soviet Union.

In 2019, India’s Vikram lander crashed on the lunar surface owing to a software glitch. Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft crashed on the surface the same year.

Updated: November 14th 2021, 3:47 PM
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