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The director general of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), Salem Al Marri, has confirmed that the MBRSC team has begun working on a new lunar rover named Rashid 2 that will bring the UAE to the surface of the Moon.

Unfortunately, the deployment of the first Rashid Rover was unsuccessful on April 25, after the Japanese-made lunar lander, Hakuto-R Mission 1, failed to perform a soft landing on the lunar surface. The Ispace-built spacecraft was just moments away from touchdown when ground control in Tokyo lost communication with it, "It apparently went into a free-fall towards the surface as it was running out of fuel to fire up its thrusters," Ispace said.

Had it landed successfully, the UAE-made lunar rover, secured inside the lander by a robotic arm, would have explored the Moon's Atlas crater, an unexplored region on the outer edge of Mare Frigoris, for one lunar day. The Rashid Rover was equipped with sensors and systems to analyze lunar soil, dust, as well as radioactive and electrical activities.

The Rashid Rover would have been the smallest lunar rover to have ever landed on the Moon, and the UAE and Ispace would have been the fourth country and private entity to accomplish this feat, alongside the US, former Soviet Union, and China.

“We have performed a successful mission"

According to AlMarri, the failed landing of the first Rashid Rover on the Moon was not a failure. Despite his personal desire to see images of the rover on the Moon, AlMarri acknowledged that lunar landings are difficult and only have a 50% success rate.

Earlier that day, he tweeted "whatever the outcome of the mission is, we have performed a successful mission. We succeeded in building capabilities, partnerships and initiating a promising path for exploration missions."

AlMarri expressed his gratitude to MBRSC's international partners and the 50+ team members who worked on the mission, as well as Dr. Hamad AlMarzooqi, who led the first Emirates Lunar Mission (ELM).

On to the next mission

After the potential crash of the Hakuto-R with the Rashid Rover on board, the team at MBRSC remained optimistic about achieving their lunar landing goal in the future. In fact, AlMarri said, "Hopefully, we will achieve that dream in the next mission."

Their optimism was further boosted when His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, visited MBRSC on April 26. During his visit, Sheikh Mohammed directed the team to start implementing the Rashid 2 project immediately.

The two rovers are named after Sheikh Mohammed's father, the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, who was the founder of modern Dubai.

“The mission of the spacecraft carrying the Rashid Rover did not succeed in landing on the Moon. However, we succeeded in raising the ceiling of our ambitions to reach the Moon,” Sheikh Mohammed tweeted that day, adding: “We succeeded in creating a team of young men and women capable of managing advanced space projects. We succeeded in building a space sector from scratch within 10 years.”

Versatile team

According to AlMarri, the team at MBRSC is already planning the next lunar mission, but no technical details have been shared yet. He confirmed that the same team who developed the original Rashid Rover will be involved in the new project.

“We have a versatile team,” AlMarri noted, adding: “We were not able to get the chance to test Rashid Rover on the Moon, so we have not decided yet on any technical improvements for the next rover."

The size and specifications of Rashid Rover 2 have not been revealed yet, as it will depend on which space company MBRSC will partner with to send it to the Moon.

Next moonshot

AlMarri emphasized that the UAE has developed its capacity and the MBRSC team is prepared to advance to the next stage.

He earlier said: “Our colleagues have developed the first Emirati and Arab Rover; a notable achievement in and of itself and one we can all stand proudly behind.”

AlMarri added the engineers and personnel at MBRSC are emboldened by the “very strong vision and leadership of the UAE".

He said the UAE leaders have taught the country to achieve goals through bold ambition and dedication. “They encourage us to make the impossible possible. Challenges and difficulties are an inherent part of space missions, and particularly for lunar landings. By embarking on difficult missions, we learn, we improve and we progress.”


SOURCE: Khaleej Times

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