UAE space centre teams up with universities to boost Moon mission goals

The Arab world's first mission to the Moon is expected to launch in less than a year

The UAE’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre is collaborating with local and international universities to carry out its lunar mission’s science goals.

With the launch of the Rashid rover, a small 10-kilogram lunar vehicle, less than one year away, the team is finalising its scientific objectives.

The partners will help develop the main instruments on board the rover, including the Langmuir probe – an instrument that measures plasma – data collection, landing site research, calibration strategies and data analysis.

One of the new partners is New York University Abu Dhabi, which will work on the microscopic camera calibration and investigate the interaction of the rover's surface materials with the solar radiation.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX will carry the mission into space from Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre on a Falcon 9 rocket, then a Japanese private company called iSpace will carry the rover to the lunar surface.

“The partnership with local and international partners demonstrates the possibilities that the Emirates Lunar Mission’s science programme offers academia,” said Salem Al Marri, director general of the space centre.

“Students and early researchers are already participating in the development of this lunar rover project and are contributing to making qualitative developments in the fields of science, communication technologies and robotics.

“Furthermore, the impact of these developments will extend beyond the space sector and into various vital sectors in the UAE and around the world.”

The UAE is launching a mission to the Moon to study the properties of regolith, or lunar soil, and the thermal properties of the surface.

Rashid’s four wheels will have different materials attached to them to see how each interacts with the regolith.

The experiment could help space agencies develop better spacesuits for future astronauts, because lunar soil sticks to almost everything and posed a major challenge during the Apollo missions.

MBRSC has also partnered with France’s Centre for Petrographic and Geochemical Research at Universite de Lorraine to study the conditions of the landing sites and analyse data retrieved from the rover’s microscopic imager.

The imager will take high-resolution photos of the lunar surface, giving scientists a view of the undisturbed, topmost layer of the regolith.

This could provide clues to the evolution and formation of the lunar surface.

Another partnership was formed with the University of Oslo in Norway, where a team is developing the Langmuir probes that will study the plasma around the Moon.

Data from the instrument could help scientists understand how charged particles interact with the lunar surface.

It is believed this interaction lifts dust particles and carries them for certain distances.

MBRSC said an international team of researchers was necessary to meet the demanding requirements for the mission, including the development of the rover and science instruments.

It was previously announced that the French space agency is providing the mission with two optical cameras that are crucial to the project.

Airbus Defence and Space is providing the materials that will be attached to Rashid’s wheels.

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Updated: December 16th 2021, 8:13 AM