The UAE’s Moon rover will be launched on a date between November 9 and 15 from the Cape Canaveral spaceport in Florida.
Dr Hamad Al Marzooqi, mission manager at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, spoke exclusively to The National on Monday about the mission’s progress and the launch window.
The space centre is participating in the International Astronautical Congress — the world’s largest space conference — in Paris, taking place until September 22.
He said that the exact launch date would be announced a month before the launch window opened.
Japanese lander Hakuto-R Mission 1, built by ispace, will carry the Rashid rover to the Moon’s surface. The mission will launch on a Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket.
“We’ve finished with the testing of the rover and we are happy with the results,” Dr Al Marzooqi said.
“The rover has been integrated with the lander and it is ready for launch." The health of the rover is being monitored twice a week, Dr Al Marzooqi said.
He said that the lander, together with all of its payloads, was expected to be delivered from Germany to the launch site in mid-October.
This is the first mission under the UAE’s long-term Moon exploration programme, which will involve the development and launch of several rovers and orbiters.
The Rashid mission will last one lunar day, or 14 Earth days. It aims to study the properties of lunar soil, the petrography and geology of the Moon, dust movement as well as the lunar surface plasma condition and photoelectron sheath.
The goal is to land in the Atlas crater in the Mare Frigoris site, located in the far-north of the Moon’s near side.
Dr Al Marzooqi said that he is feeling “more relaxed now” because the testing of the rover has gone smoothly.
“We did the difficult bits. We did all that we can do for such a mission — delivering the rover to the lander and integrating it,” he said.
“When we saw the rover the last time we were really thinking ‘hopefully, we’ll see it on the lunar surface next’.”
He said that the mission was expected to arrive on the lunar surface in March.
The UAE has already announced its second Moon mission, which involves another rover.
A Chinese lander will carry the spacecraft to the surface later this decade, as part of China’s Chang’e 7 mission.
Dr Al Marzooqi said that the details of that mission would be announced soon.