The United Arab Emirates (UAE) plans to send an unmanned spacecraft to the Moon in 2024, according to a senior official.
“It will be an Emirati-made lunar rover that will land on the surface of the Moon in 2024 in areas that have not been explored previously by human missions,” Sheikh Mohammed wrote on Twitter.
Sheikh Mohammed did not give any further details about the lunar location which the UAE plans to explore, nor how they would launch the rover into space.
Sheikh Mohammed said the rover would be named Rashid, the name of his late father, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum.
If successful in 2024, the UAE could become the fourth nation on the Earth to land a spacecraft on the Moon, after the US, the Soviet Union and China. India has tried and failed to land a spacecraft, as have both Israel and Japan.
In July, the UAE’s Amal, or ‘Hope’, probe was launched from Japan. Amal is set to reach Mars in February 2021, the year the UAE celebrates 50 years since the country’s formation.
In September next year, Amal will start transmitting Martian atmospheric data, which will be made available to the international scientific community, officials have said.
A successful mission to the Moon would be a major step for the oil-dependent economy seeking a future in space. It sent its first astronaut to the International Space Station last year. The UAE has also set itself a goal to build a human colony on Mars by 2117.
Scientific and technology focus on the Moon continues to intensify, as nations look outward from Earth in considering humankind’s long-term future and a permanent Moon base being considered as a possible jumping-off point for the journey to Mars.
Earlier this year, nuclear fission reactors were identified as the best way to generate electricity in space and to power a human-inhabited Moon base.
The Moon itself also harbours potential for mineral resources, and Nasa is seeking private companies to help mine the Moon, promising to purchase lunar regolith extracted by private companies.
Meanwhile, considerations of the day-to-day minutiae of Moon life have moved researchers in the US to devise a new method that will enable astronauts to clear lunar dust off their spacesuits and instruments more effectively. A team at the University of Colorado Boulder has developed a ‘dustbuster’ for lunar astronauts, which involves using electron beams for cleaning fine particles off surfaces.