The United Arab Emirates unveiled plans to send a spaceship to explore the solar system’s main asteroid belt, the latest space project by the oil-rich nation after it launched the successful Hope spacecraft to Mars in 2020.
About the mission
Dubbed the Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt, the project aims to develop a spacecraft in the coming years and then launch it in 2028 to study various asteroids.
This mission is a follow up and a follow on the Mars mission, where it was the first mission to Mars from the region.
The UAE became the first Arab country and the second country ever to successfully enter Mars’ orbit on its first try when its Hope probe reached the red planet in February 2021.
The craft’s goals include providing the first complete picture of the Martian atmosphere and its layers and helping answer key questions about the planet’s climate and composition.
If successful, the newly announced spacecraft will soar at speeds reaching 33,000 kilometers (20,500 miles) per hour on a seven-year journey to explore six asteroids. It will culminate in the deployment of a landing craft onto a seventh, rare “red” asteroid that scientists say may hold insight into the building blocks of life on Earth.
The endeavor is a significant milestone for the burgeoning UAE Space Agency, established in 2014, as it follows up on its success in sending the Amal, or “Hope,” probe to Mars. The new journey would span a distance over ten times greater than the Mars mission.
The explorer is named MBR after Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who also serves as the vice president and prime minister of the hereditarily ruled UAE.
It will first make its way toward Venus, where the planet’s gravitational pull will slingshot it back past the Earth and then Mars.
Some asteroid missions
Only four space agencies have attempted asteroid missions:
ESA- Rosetta mission-Mission: Flyby imaging asteroid Luteita and Steins and releasing lander on comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko
Japan-Hayabusa 1 and Hayabusa 2-Mission: Hayabusa 1 studied asteroid Itokawa. Hayabusa 2 studied asteroid Ryugu, and will study asteroid KY26 before returning to Earth in 2031.
China-Chang’e 2-Mission: Flyby mission imaging asteroid Toutatis
U.S.A-Lucy mission-Mission: Flyby mission for eight asteroids – one in the main belt and seven trojan asteroids
U.S.A-OSIRIS-REX mission-Mission: Imaging and sample collection from Bennu asteroid, probe returns to earth in September 2023