UAE's Rashid rover enters lunar orbit

Japanese lander carrying the spacecraft will make Moon-landing attempt next month

A screenshot from the live-streamed launch of the UAE’s Rashid rover in December. Photo: Screengrab
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A Japanese lander that is carrying the UAE's Rashid rover has entered the lunar orbit, ahead of its landing attempt next month.

Ispace, the company that built the Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander, on Tuesday announced the spacecraft was safely orbiting the Moon.

This is the company's and the UAE's first mission to the Moon and will pave the way for the Emirates' long-term lunar exploration programme.

"The Mission 1 lander performed its first lunar orbit insertion manoeuvre in accordance with the mission operation plan," an ispace statement said.

"The achievement demonstrates ispace’s ability to successfully deliver spacecraft and payloads into a stable lunar orbit."

Rashid rover will show children 'we can do anything'

Rashid rover will show children 'we can do anything'
Rashid rover will show children 'we can do anything'

The launch took place on December 11 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, said that the lunar orbit insertion was a proud moment for the UAE.

"We are proud of recording a new Emirati achievement with the entry of the Rashid rover into the orbit of the Moon," he tweeted.

"With the support of our leaders and the intellect and determination of our youth, there is no limit to our ambitions in the field of space exploration."

The spacecraft has travelled millions of kilometres on a low-energy transfer route, which involved using the Sun and Earth's gravity to push itself towards the Moon.

Ispace will attempt a landing late next month on the Atlas Crater region of the Moon. However, three backup sites have also been selected as a precaution.

"Specific information on date and time of the landing will be announced in the future," it said.

If successful, the ispace landing would be a landmark moment for the UAE's space mission.

But Moon landings are no easy task. Spacecraft touching down on Earth or Mars, for example, can use parachutes to slow themselves down and land safely.

But because the Moon is void of any atmosphere, complex manoeuvres are required to reduce the speed of the lander to touch down softly on the surface.

Only the US, the former Soviet Union and China have achieved soft landings on the Moon.

Landers operated by India and Israel have crashed on the surface.

Once the Rashid rover is on the Moon, it will spend 14 days exploring and capturing data.

Emirati engineers will study the properties of lunar soil, the petrography and geology of the Moon, dust movement, surface plasma conditions and the Moon's photoelectron sheath.

Updated: March 21, 2023, 4:26 PM