UAE's Rashid Rover to attempt historic landing today: 10 things you need to know about the Moon Mission

Emirati-made rover is currently safely stored in a special compartment of the spacecraft that will attempt a soft landing on the lunar surface


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Mon 24 Apr 2023, 3:53 PM

Last updated: Tue 25 Apr 2023, 6:33 AM

All eyes will be on the UAE’s Rashid Rover, as the stage is set to witness the historic day, marking the beginning of a new era of commercial lunar missions with the UAE’s Rashid rover scheduled to land on the Moon on Tuesday, 25 April, 2023 at 8.40pm UAE time.

The Emirati-made rover is currently safely stored in a special compartment of the Japanese spacecraft that will attempt a soft landing on the surface of the Moon on Tuesday.

Once it lands, it will explore the characteristics of the lunar soil, the petrography and geology of the Moon, dust movement, surface plasma conditions, and the Moon's photoelectron sheath.

But it’s no secret that Moon lander missions typically have low success rates, with only a 40 to 50 per cent chance of the rover successfully touching base with the Moon.

Meanwhile, work on the UAE’s next lunar mission has already commenced even as the UAE’s Rashid Rover is on its way to landing on the Moon’s surface.

What the mission entails – Up Next

1. Arrival Phase

The Arrival Phase consists of the entry, descent, and landing. This will be the most intense of all, as the lander will have to land on the lunar surface based on its system’s calculation to stay on course for a specific landing spot on the moon.

Rashid Rover's landing site, which will be the Atlas crater — located at 47.5°N, 44.4°E, on the southeastern outer edge of Mare Frigoris (Sea of Cold) — has been chosen to maintain its flexibility during operations. Mare Frigoris lies in the far lunar north.

Once, the lander descends into the Moon’s harsh and unpredictable surface, the mechanical arms unfold.

2. Start of science mission

Next is the Deployment, Commissioning and Drive-off phase. Once the Lander has landed on the lunar surface, deployment, commissioning and drive-off command sessions will begin. Following completion of the post-landing checkout, instrument commissioning and initial data collection will begin.

3. Hibernation and Decommissioning

Following that is the Nominal Surface Operations phase, which is the mission itself. For 10-12 days, the Rashid rover will conduct continuous surface research and image capture.

The final two phases after the lunar day are ‘hibernation’ and last ‘decommissioning’. The rover prepares for the lunar night. When the secondary communication is activated, all information captured is downloaded and every effort is made to ensure that no information is missed, before the hibernation phase. The chances of the rover restarting are slim. However, if the rover is activated after the lunar night then the mission will be extended to operate throughout the second lunar night which will end by the decommissioning phase.

The Journey so far

4. Entering transit orbit

The iSpace lander carrying the Rashid Rover performed its first lunar orbit insertion manoeuvre in accordance with the mission operation plan, on March 21. This was done under the direction of lander engineers. After a controlled burn from the lander’s main propulsion system lasting several minutes, the manoeuvre was successfully completed.

5. The launch in December 2022

On 11 December 2022, The UAE made history when the Rashid Rover, the world’s first Arab-built lunar rover, lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The Rashid Rover soared into space atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, housed inside a lunar lander designed by Japanese company ispace

It marked the start of an epic 385,000km odyssey that will make the UAE the fourth country to land on the moon if successful, also making it the first in the Arab world.

Witnessing the launch from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre’s (MBRSC) Mission Control room, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said, “Rashid Rover is part of the UAE’s ambitious space programme, which began with Mars, progressed to the Moon, and soon to Venus. Our goal is to increase our knowledge, enhance our capabilities, and leave a scientific legacy in the history of space and humanity.”

6. Digital signboards in Dubai celebrated UAE's mission to the Moon

Digital signboards on Dubai's major roads celebrated the Moon mission after the Rashid Rover successfully lifted off on 22 December, 2022.

Boards on Al Khail were seen with the phrase “UAE to the Moon” signifying the aspirational and forward-looking mission undertaken by the country.

7. Rashid Rover tested in Dubai desert

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre’s Emirates Lunar Mission (ELM) team took the UAE-made Rashid Rover for a spin in the remote desert areas in Dubai in March 2022.

It was done to check if all systems were working well, as part of preparations for the mission’s launch to the surface of the moon. The checks included monitoring the rover's mobility and communication systems. The four-wheeled rover can apparently climb over obstacles up to 10 centimetres tall and descend a 20-degree slope, at speeds of 10cm per second.

8. Explore the moon with the Rashid Rover AR experience

The MBRSC and Atlantic Productions have partnered on Rashid Rover: Moon Mission, a ground-breaking Web AR experience that gives people the opportunity to join the Rover on its journey to the moon - from the comfort of their home or classroom. This augmented reality experience allows one to pilot the super accurate digital twin of the Rashid Rover around the moon’s surface at 1:1 scale to learn about its intrepid lunar expedition.

This interactive educational AR experience (available in both iPhone and Android phones) is designed to inspire curiosity about space, science, and technology in people of all ages. One can access the experience in both English and Arabic on smartphones worldwide for free.

9. Rover is 100 percent Emirati

The explorer was designed and built in the UAE by a 100 percent Emirati team of engineers, experts, and researchers. It is a small rover with just four wheels and a weight of 10kg. If successful, the UAE will become the first Arab country and among the first countries in the world to land on the lunar surface after the United States, Soviet Union, and China. It will study the Moon’s surroundings for one lunar day, which is equivalent to 14.75 days on Earth.

10. Rover named after late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum

The Emirates Lunar Mission is part of the new 2021-2031 strategy launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, MBRSC, which includes the development and launch of the first Emirati lunar rover named “Rashid”, after the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, builder of modern Dubai.


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