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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

UAE Unveils Ambitious 13-Year Space Mission to Explore Asteroid Belt

Sheikh Mohammed revealed that the mission would undergo six years of development

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Russell Chattaraj
Russell Chattaraj
Mechanical engineering graduate, writes about science, technology and sports, teaching physics and mathematics, also played cricket professionally and passionate about bodybuilding.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: In an unprecedented display of scientific ambition and technological prowess, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced a groundbreaking space mission aimed at exploring the mysterious asteroid belt located billions of kilometres away.

The mission, which has been given the moniker MBR Explorer in honour of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the renowned Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, is scheduled to set out on a 13-year voyage that will take it to seven asteroids.

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The grand inauguration of the “Emirates Project to Explore the Asteroid Belt” took place at the illustrious Qasr Al Wattan, with Sheikh Mohammed himself in attendance to witness this historic occasion.

The project was hailed as one of the most significant undertakings in the realm of space exploration. Sheikh Mohammed revealed that the mission would undergo six years of development, followed by seven years of venturing through the vast expanse of space.

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Taking to Twitter, Sheikh Mohammed shared further details, emphasising the UAE’s unwavering commitment to fostering scientific initiatives and global research.

The initiative includes not just asteroid belt exploration but also setting up Emirati private companies that specialise in space technology, building a ground control station for deep space missions, and instructing fresh Emirati graduates in this cutting-edge industry.

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The forthcoming MBR Explorer mission is set to traverse a distance ten times greater than that covered by the UAE’s successful Hope Probe, which reached the planet Mars.

The spacecraft’s ambitious journey will include visits to seven asteroids, namely 10253 Westerwald, 623 Chimaera, 13294 Rockox, 88055, 23871, 59980, and 269 Justitia.

The UAE Space Agency has provided detailed information about the MBR Explorer spacecraft, operational plans, and the mission’s scientific objectives.

The primary goal is to deepen our understanding of the solar system’s fundamental elements, shedding light on the existence and origins of life’s building blocks within the asteroid belt. The mission also aims to lay the groundwork for potential future extraction of resources from asteroids.

The Emirates Project to Explore the Asteroid Belt (EMA) is an all-encompassing thirteen-year endeavour, with six years dedicated to spacecraft development and seven years dedicated to venturing into the main asteroid belt beyond Mars.

Throughout this extensive expedition, the MBR Explorer will conduct close flybys, providing invaluable observations of the seven primary belt asteroids.

The EMA mission builds upon the UAE’s existing knowledge, capabilities, and innovation garnered from the successful Emirates Mars Mission.

The project aims to accelerate the growth of the country’s private space sector and enhance its national expertise in advanced technological innovation.

Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology, as well as Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency, highlighted the importance of the EMA mission in creating sustainable and rewarding employment opportunities for young Emiratis.

She emphasised that education, knowledge transfer, and innovation are at the core of EMA’s mission, contributing to the empowerment of local private sector companies and UAE start-ups.

Salem Butti Salem Al Qubaisi, Director-General of the UAE Space Agency, stressed the significance of collaboration with local and global institutions, as well as the private sector, to ensure the long-term success of space missions.

He expressed enthusiasm for expanding strategic partnerships with the local private sector, facilitating the realisation and accelerated growth of future space projects.

The MBR Explorer’s extraordinary 5-billion-kilometre journey will involve gravity-assist manoeuvres around Venus, Earth, and Mars, strategically altering the spacecraft’s velocity to support its flyby campaign. The first encounter with an asteroid is projected to take place in February 2030, with subsequent flybys planned until 2034.

The pinnacle of the mission will involve a rendezvous and landing on the seventh asteroid, where a lander will be deployed to transmit scientific data from the asteroid’s surface.

The EMA initiative is expected to generate substantial economic opportunities by fostering the establishment of new start-ups, encouraging international collaborations, and attracting foreign investments to the UAE’s thriving space sector.

These developments will create fresh commercial prospects and propel the growth of innovative companies specialising in advanced technology within the UAE.

An Emirati private sector operator will assume responsibility for the ground segment and mission operations, overseeing the establishment of a dedicated control centre for deep space missions.

Through its scientific instruments, including a high-resolution camera, a thermal infrared camera, a mid-wavelength spectrometer, and an infrared spectrometer, the MBR Explorer will conduct comprehensive observations to analyse the surface composition, geology, interior density, and structure of the asteroids belonging to five major belt “families.”

These observations will unravel the origins and evolution of water-rich asteroids, assess their resource potential, and pave the way for future utilisation of these celestial resources.

The UAE’s bold foray into the exploration of the asteroid belt marks a significant milestone in the country’s space ambitions, demonstrating its unwavering commitment to scientific progress and technological innovation.

As the MBR Explorer embarks on its 13-year odyssey, the eyes of the world will be upon the UAE, eagerly anticipating the discoveries and advancements that will unfold in the vastness of space.

Also Read: Virgin Galactic’s Successful Fifth Space Test Flight Signals Commercial Launch on the Horizon


  • Russell Chattaraj

    Mechanical engineering graduate, writes about science, technology and sports, teaching physics and mathematics, also played cricket professionally and passionate about bodybuilding.

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